Aging in the right place is what seniors need

The family home as the best place to stay may not be true for all

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CALGARY, AB Jun 12, 2015/ Troy Media/ – A shift in thinking on seniors’ care issues is taking place across the country. Government leaders are taking notice.

The opportunity to provide cutting edge seniors’ care has never been more within reach. Worldwide, there is a movement to take better care of aging adults, and this is reflected in exciting technology, design and conceptual communities which flip the notion of what it is to age on its head.

Seniors’ issues include more than just better healthcare coverage. They’re about more than beds for long-term care, more money for care-providers and the obvious need for updating older seniors’ facilities with sprinklers and other mobility-related accommodations so that people who don’t move as easily as they once did.

They’re also about more than providing in-home supports and retrofits to allow seniors to “age-in-place.”

Overdue conversation about aging

Those of us in the industry who are committed to providing quality seniors’ housing and care – many of whom also deal with the reality of aging parents – believe there is a long overdue conversation that Canadians should be having with their families. It’s also a conversation our governments should be having with every single one of us, because most of us will live longer than generations past and therefore will need greater supports.

When the time is right and when it’s needed, there is full support available in the senior housing sector

These discussions should be based on having all of the options and information available for our aging seniors. Those should include the more appropriate goal of “aging in the right place.”

When most people think of seniors’ care, they skip a step or two. They might think resentfully of the hospital bed being taken up by a senior who is waiting for appropriate supports to be able to go home or to some draconian long-term care institution.

Thinking about end-of-life quickly moves us to think of something else, and so we cling to the notion of staying in the family home as the best place to be. This may not be true for all.

Unfortunately, statistics and surveys describe a sometimes different reality, where seniors living alone wait for the kids to call, become isolated, depressed and under-nourished. For many elderly, living the dream of aging-in-place can instead mean their world becomes a seniors’ Bermuda triangle: moving alone from the bedroom to the fridge, the TV and back.

The home that once worked for the family may not exactly be fulfilling or suitable as we age.

Most people’s notions of seniors’ care facilities are outdated. These outdated notions may also not reflect the value of the supports that are available in congregate living.

One-stop doesn’t fit-all

Seniors’ housing options are no longer just one-stop-fits-all. The move to ‘supportive living,’ for example, can offer greater safety, more balanced meals, increased access to home care, and engagement with a vital social community.

Eventually, when the time is right and when it’s needed, there is also full support available in the senior housing sector. All of these may be more finely tuned, responsive, efficient, cost effective and, most importantly, appropriate housing options for seniors than staying in the family home.

An industry of professionals are organized, armed with research, prepared and excited to assist in providing better housing and care for aging Canadians. Seniors’ issues may not be the squeaky wheel that drives the revenue of our economy. If not supported, however, it will drive costs.

For the growing number of seniors and for those with an aging family member, we need to keep the foot on the pedal.

Arlene Adamson is CEO of Silvera for Seniors, a charitable non-profit organization which provides homes to more than 1,500 lower-income seniors.

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