CARP outlines seniors housing plan

BARRIE – Call it “the Golden Girl Dream”.

It’s the Barrie/Simcoe County chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP)’s vision for new seniors housing in Barrie.

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“Look at Places to Grow and the number of seniors moving to Barrie in the next 20 years. There isn’t enough housing to service those needs. The housing mixture in Barrie is geared to two-storey detached homes for families as opposed to for seniors,” said Ian Hocking, a real estate agent and a member of CARP’s seniors housing committee.

Barrie is the only provincially designated urban growth centre north of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). While demographically young now, over the next 20 years, that’s forecast to change as the baby boomers retire and move north, and as the city’s population ages.
CARP envisions a group of three to four seniors living together, in a home they jointly own, with the support of a cook/housekeeper and any other staff they require.

The home would feature a 500-square-foot bedroom, with a sitting room and a bathroom for each person, and common areas would include the kitchen, dining room and a recreation room, plus gardens.

Key to the plan is ensuring seniors with similar lifestyles are matched – so active seniors can stay active and those with more complex physical or medical needs can share the cost of homemaking and nursing supports.

“The Golden Girls are very independent. The whole point is to keep these seniors independent, to give them their freedom and not constrain them. Some may need more round-the-clock help, and Solterra Co-Housing would bring in the appropriate care,” said Hocking.

For some seniors, condominium living can be very isolating, as can living in a retirement home, said CARP Barrie/Simcoe County president Gwen Kavanagh, who was inspired by a fellow named Gerry to look at the issue.

“He’s a dear soul and he got fragile and couldn’t stay in the very large home he’d built. He reluctantly moved into a retirement home. He’s shy,” she said, adding retirement homes can be like hotels: the rooms are nice, but the dining room at mealtime can be the only social opportunity for the more-introverted residents.

“He’d go to his meals and sit with three other men. He’d go back to his room and try to sleep the day away.”

The solution for Gerry would be to live with others of similar ability and with similar interests. There’d always be someone to say ‘hi’ and the television would feature programs that interested them all, she explained.

It’s a dream that can’t become reality soon enough, said Hocking.

“In a perfect world, this year wouldn’t be soon enough (to build), but the reality is until we can find people willing to live in one and/or investors to put up seed capital, it may be next year.”