A room with a view: global demand for homes for the aged far outstrips their supply. Swiss News looks at how one new health care facility seeks to serve its alpine region.

AuteurShepard, Lyn

"From the windows of my room I can view a mountain panorama." says 87-year-old Georg Janett of his new 'home' in the mid-Graubunden village of Alvaneu-Dorf.

"And they're my mountains," adds the retired district judge, emphasising his lifelong bond with the Albula valley that these scenic peaks represent.

It's a point not lost on Margrit Weber, who with her husband Roland, has managed the 28 single Envia rooms since the home's 2004 opening. The professional business manager admits that almost nothing endears residents to their new home more than the breathtaking alpine view they have known since their childhood.

Such an insight takes on added timeliness following recent studies showing that Switzerland leads Europe in life expectancy. Not only do half of Swiss women live to celebrate their 85th birthday: the country's males are not far behind. Switzerland also has more centenarians per head of population than any other European nation.

Yet being a world leader in aging citizens poses clear problems for Swiss society--and for home managers like the Webers. As demand for homes like the Envia intensifies, so do waiting lists for admission and the expectations of residents. Adjusting to new surroundings is just one of the challenges facing new residents.

Margrit Weber notes that Janett, the Envia's first occupant, must now navigate with the help of an electric wheelchair. But the retiree can still manage brief outside rolling tours on his own. Such shows of "do-it-yourself" determination help mountaineers like Janett retain their fierce independent spirit.

"Every resident has this spirit to some degree," says Weber. "Nobody wants to depend on others. But those with failing memories naturally require much more attention and care. In advanced cases, they need help with basic things like eating and drinking."

Shared costs

Before opening the Envia, the Webers ran a home in Canton Lucerne--one twice as large. Its size taxed their ability to give each resident personal care. Hence they welcomed the chance to manage the smaller Alvaneu-Dorf home with no shared rooms.

"Individual rooms are a big plus." Weber says. "Each has a toilet and shower, a TV. phone, and electrically adaptable bed. But Canton Graubunden requires that we must surcharge SFr 30 a day [or SFr 915 per month] for individual rooms. That is the downside."

The Envia co-manager explains that this surcharge fits into an all-inclusive base price of SFr 95 per day or about SFr 3,000 per...

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