London has made a commitment to increase accessibility to affordable housing (City of London, 2016). They are adding new housing that meet the criteria for affordable housing (not more than 30% of income) and have added 1200 units since 2005. In these units, the cost to inhabit one of these units is market value or lower. In private affordable options, there are some offerings specifically for older adults, while others target both adults and older adults (City of London, Age Friendly London Housing Working Group Report 2016).
Many older adults in London Ontario are in desperate need of subsidized apartments and they will wait for many years to find safe and affordable housing. I called the London Housing Access Centre on behalf of a neighbour. I was told it might take up to six years (or longer) for my neighbour to find a subsidized unit in a seniors’ apartment building. What can be done until the inventory of suitable affordable housing options meets the growing needs of our rapidly aging population?
Seniors’ Healthy Living Clusters
Through our Creative Age community consultations, we have noted a trend whereby smaller “clusters” of older adults are talking about and moving towards communal alternatives. These clusters might include the following:
Shared housing: 3 or 4 seniors can share the rent and expenses of large ranch-style homes. Ideally, the group would include younger and older seniors to help with meal preparations, laundry, housekeeping chores and day to day living. This type of shared housing was first made popular by the TV sitcom “The Golden Girls.”
Senior-friendly apartment buildings: in some apartment communities, senior tenants are starting to work with building managers to organize social and community support services. Informal resident meetings provide opportunities for individuals, couples and building managers to identify emerging issues and engage in shared problem-solving and reduce the possibilities of accidents and social isolation.
Cherryhill Village is an example of an established community with services located in the nearby Cherryhill Village Mall.
Social media can also provide an opportunity for a seniors’ community housing network to connect seniors with information, like-minded neighbours and helpful community services.
A Small is Beautiful Solution
With our volunteers and 1 paid facilitator, we can offer strategies and opportunities for strengthening and scaling existing shared housing initiatives, as well as resources for launching new and affordable housing alternatives.
These types of smaller seniors’ housing or healthy living clusters can be organized and supported by a Seniors Community Housing Facilitator to a) identify and promote alternative living arrangements, b) connect seniors with each other (empowerment) as well as c) engage outside community groups such as Meals On Wheels, Over55, Family Services Counselling, Canadian Mental Health, Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging, Middlesex-London Health Unit and CCAC. Residents can work together schedule house cleaning, grocery delivery, social events and other convenient “aging in place” services.
Let’s start small and let’s just start – now!