Meet Maurice Rollins, the 91-year-old breaking down mental health barriers
Published Saturday, August 11, 2018 10:00PM EDT
Whenever someone has a birthday at one of Maurice Rollins’ two retirement homes, they get a phone call from the boss himself.
At 91, Rollins is older than most of the residents at The Carriage House Retirement Residence in Oshawa, Ont., and the Victoria Retirement Living residence in Cobourg, Ont.
Regardless, he says the kind gesture is about adding a personal touch to a growing industry dominated by large impersonal senior home chains.
“This is their birthday and I’m the owner of the place, and I think somebody should congratulate them,” Rollins told CTV News.
Rollins tours the homes at least once a month— chatting with residents. He samples the offerings and takes criticisms and compliments from those who live there.
"I go around. I ask people, ‘do you like this?’ Oh boy, I get a lot of comments.”
“They are good, and the cooks and the girls...they are fantastic,” says 85 year old resident Gifford McKee.
The feedback is important to Rollins.
“I take his lead,” says Gerry Platt, general manager of The Carriage House. “You treat residents like family.”
Rollins is remarkable not only for his heartfelt approach to business- with a remarkable career that's spanned some 7 decades , but also what he’s overcome along the way.
At the age of 17, Rollins had his first brush with depression. It became so overwhelming that Rollins, typically a star student, began falling back in school. It took him six years to graduate high school.
When he got accepted to the University of Toronto to study pharmacy, the struggle became overwhelming. He dropped out and moved back home with his parents in Belleville, Ont.
“You can’t do anything. You can’t talk to anybody, you can’t hardly get up in the morning, I’ll tell you that,” he said.
During his lifelong battle with depression, Rollins experimented with different medications and even electroconvulsive therapy, better known as electroshock therapy. After the therapy, he experienced temporary bouts of memory loss -- a side-effect sometimes associated with the procedure.
Meanwhile, Rollins forged ahead with his career. He changed trajectories and found a passion for construction. He built a subdivision in Belleville, Ont. followed by some 9000 homes and condos across the province. Rollins also started a hotel chain called Journey’s End before getting into the retirement home business.
Rollins adopted strategies to work around his depression, such as accepting projects in smaller towns rather than costly, big-city developments that came with added pressure.
“I just felt, what if I had another attack of depression?” he says in his biography, “The Remarkable Journey of Maurice Rollins.” “How would I finish the project?”
Rollins eventually found the right medication to control his depression. According to his biography, he now takes 10 milligrams of the anti-depressant nortriptyline every day. Rollins says he likely doesn’t need to take the small dosage anymore, “but I’m afraid not to.”
Throughout his life, Rollins remained vocal about his personal struggle with mental health. He’s since become a philanthropist and donates to mental health causes.
“I know what it’s like and I want to help them get over their depression,” he said.
Depression didn’t sideline Rollins’ career, and neither has age. In fact, at the moment, he’s working on a new condo building project with his son Mark in Cobourg and possibly residential building another in Picton, Ont.
When asked if he feels his 91, Rollins responds with an emphatic "no." He says "I keep going because I have nothing better to do!"
With files from CTV Medical Correspondent Avis Favro and Producer Elizabeth St. Philip