AYER -- Nashoba Valley Medical Center celebrated the opening of its new geriatric psychiatry wing with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

The Garvin Center for Geriatric Psychiatry, scheduled to open Dec. 2, includes 16 beds, group activity and dining spaces and a sensory-therapy room. The center will offer psychiatric care for adults ages 55 and older who suffer from challenges including dementia, anxiety and depression.

Interim NVMC President Doreen Thomas said the choice to open a geriatric-psychiatry center stemmed from a need among patients in the area.

"Our seniors who were lucky enough to get into a geriatric psychiatry program were oftentimes too far away for their spouses to visit. Our seniors who were admitted to adult behavioral programs were often met with food, music, activities and furniture more suited to a 22-year-old than an 82-year-old, and we wanted to create an environment that would be soothing and would be conducive to health and wellness for our senior patients," Thomas said.

Justine Carr, Chief Medical Officer of Steward Health Care, which owns NVMC, said the center will seek to address a growing need for mental-health services among seniors.

"The projections are that by 2030, there will be 15 million seniors who have either ongoing or intermittent health needs, and this is who we are. We want to be responsive to the needs and to make sure that preventive services or acute services or long-term services are there when they're needed," Carr said.


The five month and $5 million project was named after Norma Garvin, who has volunteered at NVMC for 51 years.

"Not only am I very honored, but the name the Garvin Center for Geriatric Psychiatry seems like a perfect fit. After moving to Groton, my husband started his practice as a psychologist, so that covers the psychiatric part, and after 50 years with the hospital, I certainly qualify for the geriatric part," Garvin said.

In a tour of the facility, Clinical Director Susan Jamieson said that the space was designed to be comforting to patients, with natural lighting and hallways that double as a walking path for seniors.

A sensory therapy room will allow patients to use touch- and aromatherapy.

"We'll have modalities that they can tap into all of their different senses. So they might be able to touch something, smell something or feel something or hear something that's very soothing for them," Jamieson said.

The center will also employ about 20 staff members, including licensed social workers, occupational therapists and a full-time activities director.

Thomas said the cooperation of Steward Health Care and everyone at NVMC was instrumental in moving the project forward.

"I could not be more proud of the future of Nashoba Valley Medical Center and our ongoing commitment to meeting the needs of our changing population," Thomas said.

Community Liaison for Steward Health Care Mary Richardson said that with people continuing to live much longer than previous generations, caring for senior citizens is becoming more and more critical.

"We better take good care of each other and we better take care of our senior citizens, and this is just one step in the right direction, but what a great step," Richardson said.