The state of senior care in our communities has been largely different lately due to the impending restrictions and threats of the COVID-19 pandemic. An unprecedented health threat like this is certainly a large stressor for many people, especially for seniors who have been identified as high-risk. David Munch (B.Com. ’95) and his team at Finlandia Village in Sudbury have certainly needed to adapt to the pandemic, and they have not missed a beat in putting the residents’ needs at the forefront and maintaining a sense of community.
David always loved learning about business, so it is no surprise that he enrolled at Laurentian University and pursued a Bachelor of Commerce undergraduate degree, now known as the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program. In the program, a lot of group work was required so he found himself meeting up with his classmates on and off campus, to work on projects or to hang out. He developed a strong bond with his classmates and his professors, which were partly what lead to his academic success. “The late John H. Church, my fourth year Operations and Investments instructor, was dynamic, different, and liked to challenge students in having them participate in class,” says David.
He was also lucky enough to have met his wife, Nicole Charbonneau-Munch, at Laurentian University. She was studying to be a French language teacher and mutual friends introduced them. “Cell phones weren’t a thing yet, so I would walk down to “the pit” parking lot after classes and leave notes for her on her car, to let her know I was interested in getting to know her,” says David. Nicole is a Laurentian University graduate with a French language Bachelor of Arts in Earth Sciences (B.A. en Sciences de la terre, 1996) and a Bachelor of Education (Éducation, 1997). She is now a proud and dedicated elementary school teacher with the French catholic school board, Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario.
Upon graduating from Laurentian, many of David’s fellow graduates were moving to Southern Ontario to pursue careers. David, on the other hand, was open to opportunities and happened to find a promising one with Finlandia Village. “My uncle was a Board member at Finlandia and he informed me that someone in the accounting office was retiring,” says David. “I took a shot and showed up with my résumé. Shortly after, I was hired in a bookkeeping role, which was a good fit with my financial education from Laurentian.” Since then, David gained experience in various financial roles within Finlandia, including Director of Finance & Housing, and he worked his way up to his current position as Chief Executive Officer, which he has been in since 2008.
Finlandia is a small village with a continuum of care and support for seniors, which allows them to age in place. Seniors also have the option to age alongside their spouse, family and/or friends who may have different care needs. It has many amenities available on-site including a fitness centre, a chapel and a doctor’s office. David is thankful for his experience working in senior care, at Finlandia, which he describes as being both challenging and rewarding at the same time. “I would like to see more people openly discuss the topic of aging in Canada,” says David. “Nobody wants to talk about getting old, but we need to do more to support the aging population. We need to look after our grandmas and grandpas who have helped build this country.”
Seniors have certainly been more top-of-mind with the current COVID-19 pandemic happening around the world. In March 2020, a few days before the government put their initial restrictions and guidelines in place due to the pandemic, Finlandia closed its doors to all visitors. The staff and residents have been diligent about keeping one another safe and the village case-free. However, with winter coming and the pandemic still circulating, many residents and staff have been experiencing exhaustion or burnout with the lack of socialization. David and his team are making sure that residents are cared for, as well as kept active and busy during this especially difficult time. David has been trying to keep the morale of the staff up by showing leadership support and encouraging them to be supportive of one another, professionally and personally. The community has also been supportive in sending special treats for staff and donating personal protective equipment.
David and his team at Finlandia have also been a community partner of the University’s Laurentian Research Institute for Aging (LRIA), the newest aging research institute or centre in Canada. The LRIA seeks to engage with older adults and improve their quality of life, their health and their well-being by supporting them in being active and contributing members of their communities.
The last two years have been very busy for David outside of his position at Finlandia. He prioritizes being a part of his community of Sudbury and giving back, acting as Past President of the Rotary Club of Sudbury Sunrisers, through which he has volunteered with the Elgin Street Mission and helped clean up Rotary Park. The pandemic has certainly put a hold on some volunteer activities, but he is luckily still able to meet with his fellow Rotary volunteers virtually to organize events and fundraisers for Sudburians to give back to their community.
David has a supportive family, including a wife and kids who have mainly been home since the pandemic started, with two of their children in high school. “We have busy lives but it was nice having family at home, more dinners together and more time to manage life outside of work,” says David. “We’re not rushing home to run off to participate in leisure activities. We have made the best of it.” David, his wife and their 3 kids were fortunate to have spent time together by the pool, in the sauna and with the new furry addition to their family, their dog Mei Mei (meaning “little sister” in Chinese). Their son Devan is also a Laurentian University graduate, with a B.A. in Law and Justice, and currently works at Weaver Simmons in Sudbury.