Life expectancy in Canada has increased approximately 10 years between 1965 to 2015 from 71.87 to 82.14 years. In 2016, census figures showed seniors outnumber children for the first time with a 20 per cent increase of people over 65 since 2011.
Early baby boomers are now into their 70s and while there are many active seniors, others need additional support. They are faced with a choice between long term care homes that can have waitlist of 2-8 years and private retirement homes that can cost between two to four thousand dollars for independent living, with prices reaching seven thousand dollars for physical assistance or memory care with dementia. There have been very few options in between so seniors are staying in their homes longer by choice and out of necessity.
This March, Carlington Community Health Centre announced that the new Carlington Community Health Hub will have an expanded Community Health Center. It will be connected to 42 affordable 1-bedroom units, of which 12 are accessible units that will help an underserved segment of the housing market.
Carlington CHC Executive Director Cameron MacLeod along with Stéphane Giguère, CEO of non-profit Ottawa Community Housing (OCH), unveiled this new and innovative partnership for older adults. Also present at the announcement were representatives from all 3 levels of government: federal Member of Parliament Anita Vandenbeld, provincial Members of Provincial Parliament Bob Chiarelli and Yasir Naqvi and municipal councillors Riley Brockington and Jeff Leiper.
This collaborative project cost approximately $18 million and has been in planning and development since 2014. This addition is funded by $4.6 million in capital funding provided under the federal-provincial Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario Program and the City of Ottawa’s 2015 Action Ottawa. OCH is contributing $5.1 million with Carlington CHC contributing the remaining $8 million. This new hub is being built with a building envelope and mechanical systems designed for high performance. A passive solar design, otherwise known as passive house, will help minimize on-going operating energy costs while keeping a minimal carbon footprint.
This new project will give seniors homes that are easily accessible by their walkers and wheelchairs. It will be connected to medical services, other services and activities. Additional help could be organized for meals such as Meals on Wheels or services similar to Operation Come Home’s FoodWorks. It would be possible to organize additional services such housekeeping and others to give seniors the support they need.
Even more similar projects and market rent options could be built in Ottawa and other cities to respond to the aging population. More creative solutions are necessary to give seniors more choice and improve their quality of life. Seniors themselves and their family need to advocate for better solutions and more options for them to successfully remain in the community.