In many ways, preparing to age in place is like planning a trip.
That’s how Sue Lantz from Collaborative Aging described it to the audience Monday night at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library’s “Learn & Live” presentation.
She focused on how seniors can successfully age in place – meaning you have the health and social supports needed to live safely and independently at home or in the community for as long as you are able.
About 40 people sat in the audience, many armed with notepads, pens and questions.
Lantz said she believes aging well and successful aging is a personal vision that people can shape, and stressed the importance of looking forward and planning for the future.
While planning for a trip, “we think about what we want to experience first, where we want to go, who we want to go with, how much money we want to spend, what the risks are,” Lantz said.
Planning for the future is similar and Lantz encourages people to embrace aging, rather than run away from it.
“In sometimes avoiding the idea of aging we are actually narrowing our options and narrowing our choices and even narrowing our own thinking,” she said.
Lantz used her grandparents as an example.
In their 70s, they started planning by modifying the main floor of their house, talking to a financial adviser, setting money aside, talking to family and friends about the future and asking questions.
“I think a key point that I took away was to plan for these things in advance,” Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Laura Cousens told The Lake Report after the presentation.
In order to plan for the future, Lantz recommends following five strategies that include looking at health options, social networks, housing options, a caregiving team and resources.
Niagara-on-the-Lake has great family health teams and primary care options, she said.
“These are really important resources that you can collaborate with to maintain your best health,” she added.
Maintaining a good social network, assembling the appropriate team of caregivers, and taking advantage of NOTL resources, such as the library, are all important, she said.
For housing, she emphasized how important it is to get “ahead of the curve” and make decisions early in life.
People are either staying put, moving or getting creative, she said.
One creative option Lantz mentioned is cohousing, a type of collaborative housing option for seniors.
Lantz described it as a “multi-unit dwelling with shared facilities.”
One example of this type of living is the Golden Girls of Port Perry, older adults who share a living space.
The average rent is about $1,700, which includes housing and food, Lantz said.
Part of the appeal is “knowing your neighbours and feeling a part of something,” she said.
She also noted Niagara-on-the-Lake is a naturally occurring retirement community, meaning there are areas of NOTL where older adults make up a large part of the population.
These areas then come together as a community and organize things together like classes, excursions, food delivery services and other resources.
An example would be the Oasis Senior Supportive Living Inc. program. It started in Kingston and has expanded across Canada.
“I’m really trying to help you think forward, right? And thinking forward helps you act and make choices along the way,” Lantz said.
Rental and housing options for seniors looking to age in place has been a big concern in NOTL and many in the audience were open to the ideas Lantz presented.
“I love the idea of even like the joint meal delivery,” Cousens said.
It’s no secret that Niagara-on-the-Lake needs more options for seniors who want to downsize but stay in the community.
“For anybody who might, for whatever reason, need to move out of their single-family home, but does not want to leave this town (there is) no option,” said Cindy Grant, treasurer of NOTL Community Palliative Care and chair of Newark Neighbours.
She’s on board with the idea of co-housing and announced during the presentation that she and other NOTL residents are forming a group to explore alternative housing options.
Grant said she hears of people leaving Niagara-on-the-Lake all the time because of the lack of places to move to.
Resident Bob Bader would like to see the town “enable seniors to add secondary units on their properties.”
He suggested secondary units could house people who need a place to live in town in “exchange for providing some support services to the person.”
Many people want to stay in their communities and not live in segregated settings, said Lantz.
“There are so many ways we can go about our choices in our plans that actually give us more choice and more opportunity to fulfil our wish,” she said.
- The Learn & Live series grew out of recommendations made by the town’s community wellness committee on how to improve residents’ lives. Next in the series: Do You Want to Write a Memoir?” presented by Tom Smith on April 17 at the library.