According to the 1976 Canadian Census, there were 4,990 Chinese residents over the age of 65 living in Vancouver, with half of them living alone in rooming and row houses on the fringes of Chinatown. At the time, due to various barriers, with language being one of them, there was an obvious need for a care home that serves the Chinese community.
When the City of Vancouver expropriated the Oriental Home for industrial expansion in 1972, a group of Vancouver professionals with altruistic and philanthropic desires came together and formed the Villa Cathay Care Home Society in 1976. In the same year, the Society purchased a 48,330 sq. ft. parcel of land from the City of Vancouver to build a new care home. The Society took a loan to begin the construction of the Villa Cathay Care Home at 970 Union Street. On March 1, 1978, Villa Cathay Care Home formally opened and became the only non-profit care home in Vancouver specializing in culturally oriented care for Chinese elders at the time. It provided a haven for senior citizens of Chinese descent who did not have family in Vancouver and needed professional residential care. In 1991, the need exceeded the capacity of the original care facility and the East Wing was added. As of 2017, the Villa Cathay has been serving the community for the past 39 years.
History of Residential Care for Chinese Seniors in Vancouver
In the 1920’s, during the Gold Rush and the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, many Chinese from Asia seeking opportunities for a better life had settled in Vancouver. Archbishop Timothy Casey of Vancouver, realizing the urgent need for a medical facility for the Chinese elders, invited the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Montreal to come to Vancouver to set up a hospital for them. The hospital, known as the Oriental Home, opened its doors at 236 Campbell Avenue in the spring of 1922. The 6-bed Oriental Home served the Chinese seniors who would otherwise be homeless at the time when care was most needed.