Co-housing Helps Fill the Gaps in Senior Care

The living conditions of seniors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities during the pandemic cemented for many older adults their desire to age in place for as long as possible.  But with rapidly growing numbers of baby boomers reaching retirement age, more creative solutions will be needed to help care for, and house seniors in their communities. Co-housing models, taken for granted in some cultures, are trending in Canada.

According to a recent Globe and Mail report, co-housing projects like Little Mountain Cohousing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada draw upon a time-honored model of supporting elders within multi-generational housing.  A community that includes seniors, along with other adults and children, provides opportunities for social interaction at shared meals and gatherings, and a sense of belonging.  The residents are able to help one another while maintaining dignity, and interdependence between the generations. 

Census data released last month by Statistics Canada shows that nearly 1 in 5 Canadians is now 65 or older – the number of seniors rose more than 18 percent between 2016 and 2021.  The number of adults over the age of 85 doubled between 2001 and 2021.  But with a severe shortage of qualified and reliable staff, affordable long-term care is scarce.  

The need to create innovative alternative housing and care models for seniors is urgent.  Because more older adults lack a spouse or adult children to help care for them, home-sharing with friends, students, and others with a similar outlook can reduce living expenses while providing help in times of need. 

The need for long-term care facilities will persist for those requiring more care than can be provided in the community, and quality needs to be improved, but support and assisted housing outside of institutional care can also help fill the void.   Home-sharing and co-housing projects can help provide companionship and assistance to seniors who want to stay as independent as possible but need some level of support to age successfully in place. 

Providing proper training, and a decent living wage for care workers is also an important component of helping to care for community-dwelling seniors and lift some of the burden from informal family caregivers.   Sandwiched between careers, raising a family, and caring for elderly loved ones, middle-aged adults often suffer caregiver burnout, especially when dementia or medical conditions become difficult to manage without professional help. 

Learn more about the effects of multi-generational cohousing in Germany by following this link to a research article published in the Journal of Civil Society or by visiting The Canadian Cohousing Network website.