Social isolation is becoming one of the most prominent issues facing today’s Canadian seniors. Canada’s population over 65 years of age has exceeded 6 million and is projected to exceed 9.5 million by 2030. In 2016, the number of people over 65 exceeded the number under 15 years of age. As one of the fastest-growing demographics in Canada, seniors face a number of issues that need to be addressed both now and in the future in order to succeed in attaining a satisfactory quality of life.
People in isolation are at risk of many negative health consequences. For seniors, these can include increased risk of heart attack, dementia, falls, depression, loss of cognitive function and can contribute to an early death. According to the RTOERO Foundation, social isolation is the number 1 issue facing seniors in Canada. At least 1.4 million seniors report feeling lonely according to Statistics Canada. Isolated seniors are more likely to use many support and health services however the current pandemic has forced many of these services to suspend function to protect their vulnerable, elderly clients.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are a number of things that can be done to combat social isolation for seniors.
PUBLIC ENVIRONMENTAL UPGRADES
The environment plays an important role in the physical and mental well-being of people. For seniors, being able to age well and comfortably depends a lot on their environment. A number of city initiatives have been trialled in areas in Canada that have made many outdoor spaces elder and senior-friendly. For example in the City of Barrie, ON, small changes such as providing additional seating, more shade structures, upgrading transit and increasing crosswalk times made a huge difference and earned Barrie the Ontario Age-Friendly Community Recognition Award from the Minister of Senior Affairs.
INVESTMENT IN SENIOR AND LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES
Long-term care facilities and senior care facilities have long since been victims of poor management and budget cuts. This has contributed to many different investigations that have concluded that many of these facilities are a nightmare for their residents. Many organizations have advocated for investment into the public long-term care facilities in order to upgrade the facilities, increase the quantity and quality of staff and tighten requirements and regulations in management and governing these facilities.
COHOUSING, CO-OWNERSHIP AND CO-LIVING
There are many ways that seniors can upgrade their own living spaces to avoid isolation and encourage social interaction. This could be something as simple as sharing their homes. There are many programs around Canada that can facilitate this. The National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly is a program that matches senior homeowners with students facilitating and exchanging where the student helps around the house and socializes for reduced rents. Cohousing programs and development opportunities around Canada allow many aging and senior residents to buy into a community that will facilitate aging in place and allow them to socialize with different age groups. Additionally, there are senior-focused communities such as Rivercrest Estates. Co-ownership (GoCo’s specialty) allows seniors to live with friends, family and even strangers to build their own communities within a home that they own together. The Port Perry Golden Girls are a great example.
If you would like to know more about co-ownership and coliving opportunities, reach out to GoCo today!