Embracing Aging in Place

Group of older adults doing seated exercises.

As we grow older, the question of where we will live becomes increasingly important. For many, the high costs of retirement homes and the unsettling stories of long-term care facilities have made the concept of aging in place—remaining in one’s own home and community—more appealing. A recent CBC article highlighted the story of Wendy Yacura, a 76-year-old former business owner from Hamilton, Ontario. Yacura’s story highlights the benefits of staying in a familiar environment and fostering a sense of control and community.

The Benefits of Aging in Place

Yacura moved into her current apartment 11 years ago, and today, 75% of her neighbors are seniors. Together, they have created a supportive community by organizing lectures, potluck dinners, and exercise classes. For Yacura, staying in the same place provides a sense of stability and the opportunity to build meaningful relationships. Socialization is key to health and well-being. She can easily access grocery stores, banks, and doctors, integrating these activities into her daily routine.

By 2030, nearly a quarter of Canada’s population will be over 65. Many, like Yacura, prefer to age in place rather than move to expensive retirement homes or long-term care facilities. According to the 2016 Canadian census, over 85% of seniors want to stay in their homes, paying for support as needed. Aging in place offers a sense of freedom, fewer regulations, and often lower costs compared to retirement homes, which can cost upwards of $3,100 a month.

Exploring Co-Living and Co-Housing

As seniors seek to maintain independence and social connections, co-living and co-housing arrangements have gained popularity. Co-living involves individuals sharing a home and responsibilities, creating a supportive environment. Roomies can successfully share a home for several years, splitting expenses and chores, which provide both social and financial benefits.

Co-housing, on the other hand, involves structured communities where residents have their own private spaces but share common amenities. The Canadian Cohousing Network has 49 such communities, offering features like vegetable gardens and common houses with guest rooms and workshops. These communities foster social interaction and mutual support, essential for healthy aging. Residents can band together to share services such as drivers to take them shopping, home care or lawn maintenance, keeping individual costs down.

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs)

NORCs are another innovative approach to aging in place. These are existing buildings or neighborhoods where a significant portion of residents are older adults. Services are brought directly to these communities, making it easier for seniors to access support without moving. For instance, the El Mirador apartment building in Hamilton offers physical fitness programs and other activities tailored to residents’ needs.

Dr. Howard Abrams, a physician at the University Health Network in Toronto, emphasizes the importance of supportive communities in preventing the decline often seen in elderly hospital patients. NORCs can streamline services like home care, ensuring more efficient and focused support for residents.

Choosing the Best Option

Ultimately, the best living situation depends on individual preferences and needs. Whether it’s aging in place, co-living, co-housing, or joining a NORC, the goal is to find a supportive environment that fosters independence, social connections, and well-being. For many seniors, the idea of losing independence and moving to a nursing home is daunting or downright distasteful. Aging in place offers a way to maintain control over their lives while enjoying the comfort of familiar surroundings and community support. It is critical to make sure that the home offers the modifications necessary to prevent injury and maintain personal energy reserves for the enjoyment of life.

As the population ages, finding suitable living arrangements for seniors will become increasingly important. Aging in place, in its various forms, provides a viable solution that respects seniors’ desire for independence and community. It’s not just about where we live as we age, but how we live—staying active, engaged, and connected.