By Wendy MacMillan
(May 2020)
– Who knew that I would be continuing to write about seniors housing, age friendly communities and the impact of social isolation, in the middle of a pandemic that especially impacts older people and has made social distancing a life saver for many of us. The irony is not lost on me.
Covid-19 has made us more aware of the challenges that have existed for some time in long term care facilities across the country. Supports and affordable housing for seniors to age in place and maintain their independence for longer in their own homes will, I hope, continue to be part of the conversation as we reflect as a country on the impacts of this virus. The Port Stanley Village Association (PSVA) is advocating for this locally.

Seniors are no different than any other segment of the population in our diversity. Social isolation, for example, can be difficult for seniors, especially when they are no longer mobile or have recently lost a partner. It can impact both physical and mental health. But this does not mean that every senior wants to be the life and soul of the party every day – they may really enjoy time alone, as they have all their life. Individual needs and preferences are often best accommodated living independently where possible. PSVA has researched creative ways that seniors and their communities have found to house seniors in a way that provides independence but also the supports that make it possible to continue to age in place for the longer term.

Examples include seniors who have students living in their home with them to provide mutual companionship and some support, affordable rent for the student and a modest income for the senior. Seniors who share a house may also share a background or interest. There is a house in Toronto for retired actors for example. Co-housing involves seniors owning their own living space, but sharing communal space for meals and socializing, and providing non-medical support to each other. Another option involves providing living space for seniors co-located with a community health centre that provides easy access to services such as physio, vision care and coordinated home support. 

Seniors retirement communities are often privately owned and provide a higher end rental lifestyle and various levels of included and optional services (meals, organized activities, housekeeping, care packages) based on their pricing model and the needs of the resident. This is sometimes called an a la Carte or concierge model. 

The choices that seniors can make are influenced by their financial situation and there is growing need for modest affordable rental housing for seniors as the baby boomer generation ages, including in Port Stanley. Seniors homes tend to form their own grass roots support system, but formalizing this by co-locating with community-based services tends to provide a more secure long-term support system for aging in place. PSVA is advocating for additional seniors housing of this kind in Port Stanley. 

Next month we’ll talk about being an age friendly community. Stay well and stay safe.