New concept in works to provide housing for seniors

A new concept in seniors’ housing in Barrie will be unveiled next week.

A senior housing committee consisting of members of CARP (Canadian Association for Retired Persons), local builders, real estate agents and other volunteers have been busy over the last two years creating a unique opportunity for seniors in the city. The concept is to have four to six seniors coming together to share the costs of running a home, but at the same time having some minor care component added.

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The idea to have a group of like-mined seniors living together came from a Bracebridge company called Solterra Co-Housing, which is promoting the idea of shared housing and ownership as opposed to more traditional retirement home scenarios.

Residents — including seniors, their families and caregivers — are invited to learn more about the housing concept during a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at the Steckley-Gooderham Funeral Home, 30 Worsley St. starting at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)

Local financial advisor Gwen Kavanagh sits on the senior housing committee and is also chairwoman of Chapter 36 for CARP for Barrie and the surrounding area.

In her role as a financial advisor she deals with a lot of seniors and over the years has become very close to many of them, seeing what kind of accommodation they have and the challenges they face.

“I felt there had to be an alternative,” she said, adding she thinks she found it through Solterra Co-Housing. “We’re very different; we’re not a retirement home and we’re not a boarding house. There’s nothing to compare us to.”

She said anyone contemplating changes for a senior loved one’s accommodation should consider attending the meeting to learn more.

“They need to know how and why it works and why its beneficial,” said Kavanagh, adding there is one aspect to the plan that makes it unique.

“What makes it different and makes it worthwhile is a house mom. A house mom can be hired (by a management company) to do housework, laundry, shopping and cooking and arranging outings.”

They would also check up on medications and generally ensure that everyone is alright.

When time comes to move into a more intensive retirement facility where round the clock supervision is needed, the seniors can sell their share “like any other piece of real estate,” she added. Potential ‘roommates’ would be screened for compatibility. “There is a three month trial and we would match like people to other like people,” she said.

The concept would also be appreciated by family members concerned their senior loved one is in a safe and social environment.

“It’s not just for the person (moving into) the house, it’s for the family as well. It’s a lifesaver for the caregiver,” said Kavanagh.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said he can appreciate the benefits of the co-housing model.

“It’s an innovative concept, which I think could work for a lot of folks who don’t want to move into institutional living and prefer to own their own home,” he said. “The co-housing concept allows seniors to continue to own their residence while having some of the benefits of collective living, such as shared services, much lower costs, and of course the companionship of having neighbours in the same building.”

Based on what he’s seen, he thinks the concept could work in Barrie.

“I do think that it will take more than just these types of developments to provide the mix of housing for seniors who have different needs and wants for their living environments,” Lehman said. “There will need to be a range of dwellings built, especially smaller units such as apartments and single storey townhomes, to meet the changing demographics of the housing market over the coming years.

“I think the goal has to be to provide choices for people as they get older, to have the opportunity to live near, or with, the services they need, at an affordable price.”

To learn more, call CARP at 705 252-4756, or visit

[email protected]

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