Broken elevator at Toronto retreat since Christmas could take 2 more weeks to fix

An elevator has been broken at a Toronto nursing home since Christmas (and could take another two weeks to fix), leaving dozens of elderly residents with only stairs to get out of their homes.

The elevator, now out of service, serves 32 of the 254 residents living in the four-story ‘Tower D’ at Chartwell Grenadier Retirement Residence, located on the edge of High Park.

An 89-year-old woman who lives on the third floor of the tower walks to Bloor West Village daily to prevent her knees from buckling as a result of her osteoarthritis, her daughter Catherine Antonoff told CTV News Toronto.

A few days after the elevator stopped working, he tried to go downstairs with a caretaker. But halfway there her knees stiffened, her daughter said.

“She’s very depressed now because she hasn’t done her routine,” Antonoff said.

The last two nights, his mother started packing her bags to leave. “It was like the beginning of the pandemic, but it was worse,” Antonoff said.

The elevator in ‘Tower D’ was out of service on December 25 around 7:30 p.m. due to a broken cable in the car, according to a letter sent to residents two days later. A thread on one of the cables broke, which is considered “fairly routine” and requires a replacement of the lifting cable, according to a spokesperson for the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA).

Chartwell is Canada’s largest senior housing operator, serving more than 25,000 residents in four provinces across the country, according to its Toronto Stock Exchange profile.

A sign showing that an elevator at Chartwell Grenadier Retirement Residence is out of service (left) and Catherine Antonoff’s mother climbing the stairs (right).

On Jan. 5, Chartwell Regional Operations Director Andrew Walker wrote in an update to residents that it would take another two weeks for a manufacturer to build a custom-made component needed to replace the cable. Only then can you begin the installation process.

“We have been working closely with the elevator manufacturer to expedite repairs, however the exact timeline for completion has not yet been confirmed,” Walker wrote.

Meanwhile, meals are being delivered and care and activities are reaching directly to affected residents.

Not long after the elevator broke down, Marilyn Stix returned from a day out with her siblings and extended family.

The 81-year-old found it “very disturbing and disappointing” to discover the lift was out of service when she got home. Tired and carrying a heavy bag, she waited for a member of her staff to help her up to the fourth floor.

“Climbing to my floor is slow and difficult because I have asthma and the climb negatively compromises my breathing,” Stix said.

Marilyn Stix, 81, a resident of Chartwell Grenadier Retirement Residence for almost five years, is seen in an undated photo. She usually does her own shopping and does her laundry, located underground in P1. But without the elevator to carry the extra load, he had to call it off.

“It’s really restricted my ability to live independently,” he said.

Chartwell senior director of communications Mary Perrone Lisi confirmed that there have been “similar issues” with this elevator in the past, which Antonoff said also happened last January over a series of days.

TSSA spokesperson Alexandra Campbell said the home passed its last inspection in December 2020 and there have been no reported incidents with this lift in recent years.

“It is possible that the elevator was out of service last year for regular maintenance, but I cannot confirm if that was the case. There were no safety issues last year,” Campbell said.

Walkers and wheelchairs for seniors living in a decommissioned elevator tower at Chartwell Grenadier Retirement Residence.

An agency inspector visited the site Wednesday to address residents’ safety concerns, and Campbell confirmed the elevator is up to date with its quarterly checks.

However, he acknowledged, “in a nursing home people would say that not having an elevator available is a different type of safety problem.”

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