Monday
Aug042014

Tiny Sointula Prepares for a Senior Surge

        Sointula may be a tiny village on a small island (Malcolm Island, BC - population 886) but it's anticipating its own senior surge and wants to be prepared. Over a century ago, the community was created as a utopia by immigrants from Finland. Sointula, meaning "place of harmony", was to be a community of equality, participation and sharing. Although the original utopian concept was not fully realized, the island continues to draw people who are attracted to these principles. The senior population is a mix of long-time residents who are aging in place, native-born Islanders who are returning home to retire, and newly-arrived retirees attracted by the bucolic lifestyle and friendly spirit. Locals have noticed that, although the population size is staying fairly constant, the average age is increasing. Families with children are leaving the island and being replaced by retirees.

         Seniors housing is provided by Harmony Glen, an independent-living facility with eight one-bedroom suites. With support from family and hired caregivers, residents are able to live at Harmony Glen for years, if not decades. But if their needs become too great, they must relocate to a long-term care facility on Vancouver Island. Harmony Glen is owned and operated by Malcolm Island Senior Citizens Housing Society and BC Housing. To help seniors age in place, the community will need to expand facilities for independent seniors, increase home care for people choosing to stay at home, and extend the level of care available locally. The Lions Club intends to answer the call - again. It was the Lions Club thirty years ago that set up Harmony Glen and they are prepared to jump in once more.

Friday
Apr112014

We ALL need a MAC! 

      Whistler gave me an outstanding welcome on Monday night, with well over 100 people attending my talk. I wasn't surprised given that the event was organized by MAC (Mature Action Committee). You may recall that MAC was one of the groups I highlighted in The Perfect Home as a reason for optimism about our chances for healthy aging. The organization was set-up in the mid-90's to tackle senior housing needs and has expanded to address all aspects of growing old in Whistler. Their goal: to make their town a model community for aging in place. They have over 200 members, which is impressive for a place where people pride themselves on staying young forever. They're making it fun to be old, even "hip", by throwing great parties, sponsoring terrific activities and attracting people who want to be associated with success. Whistler has about 1900 full-time residents aged 50+ and this number is due to increase as people retire to their vacation homes.

      One of MAC's successful strategies is partnering. They work with the local health care providers on medical issues, with the seniors centre to develop programming, and with nearby communities on transportation solutions. They want to have seniors involved in all decisions that affect them both through a senior advisory committee at the Municipal level and having senior spokespeople on all appropriate boards. This senior engagement is another tenet of their work, also encouraged through a volunteer program of Seniors Supporting Seniors.

      Another successful strategy is research. They hold an annual Town Hall Meetings to find out what aging in place means to the residents and what might prevent them from staying in Whistler for the long term. They ask people for their ideas for solutions and for advice on MAC's role. As President Sue Lawther says, "We get dozens of smart practical ideas from this forum. We give each solution a priority, identify what agency owns the issue and meet with them to determine an action plan going forward."

      We all need a MAC in our community!

Wednesday
Feb122014

Leading the Way

     On Feb 9, I spoke at the Parksville Community Centre in support of the excellent Oceanside Hospice. This gave me a chance to check out some terrific projects for seniors that are taking place in the area. Parksville, BC and the neighbouring community of Qualicum Beach have the highest proportion of seniors in Canada. By 2030, Parksville's current population of some 12,000 people is estimated to grow by 31%. And the population of seniors aged 75+ is expected to double. So I'm watching with interest the plans and projects launched for seniors by these savvy communities. I suspect they'll be leading the way for the rest of us.

     The photo above shows a great example. Last summer the Parksville Lions Club installed Adult Fitness Equipment at the Parksville Community Park next to the kids Adventureland and right near their boardwalk. As a fan posted on their facebook page "... judging by all the comments and the people down there trying out the equipment, it is a big hit! This will greatly enhance my regular walks down to the beach along the boardwalk by giving me some circuit exercises too, and you sure can't beat the view!"

Tuesday
Dec102013

Study Group Tips for The Perfect Home

     In The Perfect Home For a Long Life, I devoted a chapter to reasons for optimism. Marlene Chan is a good example. She's taking the expertise she acquired as a federal government policy analyst and applying it to how we house ourselves for the future. In Spring 2014, Marlene plans to offer a course on this topic through the McGill Community for Lifelong Learning (MCLL), and she's doing her homework first. As an example of the thoroughness with which she tackles things, she tracked down two study groups looking at The Perfect Home for a Long Life and asked them for their advice. The ones she reached are at opposite ends of the country, one in Halifax, NS and the other on Quadra Island, BC.

     Pat Kipping has been facilitating The Reboom Housing Boomers Study Group in Halifax, since May. In their last session they looked more closely at some of the ideas in The Perfect Home for a Long Life around sharing amenities and services and what ‘living in community’ means. In 2014, they intend to take some practical steps to identifying new initiatives they may want to start or join. On Quadra Island, Marlene reached Dirk van der Minne who is participating with the Quadra Circle in a study group on The Perfect Home for a Long Life.

Here are some things Marlene learned:

  • If there is no continuity in attendance, the composition of each meeting changes and it's hard to make progress. Most of the time is spent on basic introductions and getting to know one other and their particular situation, rather than moving the agenda forward. Advice: If your goal is to come up with specific projects, expect that progress will be slow. Otherwise, be content to stimulate people's thinking about their own personal strategies.
  • Since people's needs and wants are unique, coming to agreement on a joint approach to tackling future housing requirements is challenging. It can be hard to come together as a group because the solutions are so personal. Advice: Look for commonalities.

In addition to this good advice, Marlene passes along the following resources she will be exploring in her course in addition to The Perfect Home For a Long Life.

  • Canadian Association for Gerontology - Friendly Housing for an Older Population - Fireside Chat, November 27, 2013
  • CBC Sunday Edition "Alternative living arrangements for the elderly"
  • Radical Rest Homes
  • Future Social: Design Ideas, Essays and Discussions on Social Housing for the 'Hardest-To-House' by Matthew Soules
  • The Human Scale, a film directed by Andreas Møl Dalsgaard
  • "Rahul Mehrotra: Working in Mumbai" Mellon Lecture, December 5, 2013
Monday
Oct072013

Jean and Henry screen "Still Mine"

In The Perfect Home For a Long Life I introduced you to Henry and Jean Kroll (pictured above) who have been living for the past six years in Silver Sage, a seniors cohousing project in Boulder, Colorado. Jean has dementia and the strong Silver Sage emotional circle allows her to both contribute to and be supported by her community. Henry was keen to watch the film "Still Mine", which is based on a true story, after watching the trailer and seeing parallels with his and Jean's journey. We managed to get a DVD to Henry, and the Silver Sage community held a screening this week. Here's Henry's review of this excellent film.

I saw a trailer of the award-winning Canadian dramatic film, STILL MINE featuring the excellent acting of Genevieve Bujold and James Cromwell. Looking at the trailer and having a youngster's crush on Ms. Bujold from her films 40 plus years ago...I had to see Still Mine. And it is better than I expected. Bujold, now 70 years old, plays a woman living with declining cognitive impairment in rural New Brunswick.  Craig, her independently-minded older husband played by Cromwell, wants to "protect" wife Irene (Bujold) from their adult children who favour placing their frail mom in a senior living community in the "city". The film makes a fascinating and moving cinematic expression, and captures in my view very much of what Jean and I are now living through together. Craig moves from denial towards loving acceptance determined to live out their years together in the new home he builds to accommodate his wife's needs. Cromwell gives the performance of his great career in this role.