These last few years have made many of us reconsider where and how we want to live in our older years. We have questions/concerns about where we will live, when we are no longer able to remain in our homes and this seems to be a topic discussed regularly. Most times the conversation is triggered following the death of a spouse or an admission into hospital with the realization that a return home, may not be possible.
But what about for those healthy seniors who want to remain living in their own homes but require something more. The ‘something more’ might include:
– Socialization and someone knowing if you are dead or alive
– Getting help changing a light bulb or challenges turning off the remote (yes I admit, having 3 remotes is confusing)
– Sharing a meal
– Remain in charge.
Let’s talk about NORCS. These Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities are unplanned communities that have a high proportion of older residents; typically they are small, stable geographical areas with 400-700 inhabitants- which can often be found in apartment complexes or other smaller communities. “Researchers have referred to NORCs as “untapped resources to enable optimal aging at home” with the potential to build social networks and integrate supportive community programs. Studies have demonstrated the benefit of these communities to building social networks and increasing participation in daily activities. There are well documented examples of NORCs with social support programs in New York and other U.S. states.” **
You may recall that I previously blogged on the UK having a Minister for Loneliness, so it comes as no surprise that the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that “people with adequate social relationships are at a 50% lower risk of death than those with poor or insufficient social relationships. As a risk factor for mortality, social isolation exceeds obesity and physical inactivity.” Welcome to the OASIS model that developed organically in a Kingston Ontario apartment building and is currently running in different communities across Canada.
Christine McMillan is the driving force and OASIS came to be because of her determination and hard work as well as support from community partnerships (the South East Local Health Integration Network or SELHIN) and Trillium Foundation grants. Oasis is also working with UHN OpenLab. OpenLab describes themselves as ‘a design and innovation shop dedicated to finding creative solutions that transform the way health care is delivered and experienced.’
Oasis is truly a supportive living program created for the seniors and designed by the seniors. Government monies provided for the hiring of 24/7 PSW support (which complemented what the public sector was already providing) and other services, including exercise programs, organized social programs and entertainment. Of interest as well was that many Oasis members who were eligible for long term care chose to defer this move- which provided substantial financial savings to the our health care system. In some cases, the apartment owners provided the party room- which became a lounge and a separate dining area so this provided space for subsidized meals to be brought in three times a week.
NORCs are gaining popularity and are well worth considering as part of your ‘aging at home’ discussions with your family and friends.