THUNDER BAY - For many seniors, staying at home is important for being active and maintaining a sense of independence, but there can be challenges.
“If you have mobility issues, then you have a problem,” said Valerie Coates. “Depending on the layout of your house, if you have to be in a wheelchair, you need wide doorways, kitchen cupboards need to be lower, washroom accessibility.”
“Where you live is very important and to stay in your home is even more important.”
Valerie and Robert Coates were among the more than 100 people who came out to the city’s first age-friendly housing showcase on Wednesday called The GIANTS Castle: Making Your Home Age-Ready, hosted by Age Friendly GIANTS (Grand Individuals Aging with Neighbours in Thunder Bay) Project
“We have a lot of seniors that say staying in your house is daunting,” said Nancy Angus, project lead with Age Friendly GIANTS. “You have a lot of things you have to do in your house, it costs a lot of money to maintain your house, and it can be lonely.”
The showcase included a trade show, presentations on issues relating to homeownership for seniors, and even a demonstration on how to declutter your home with the popular local theatre character, Ivanka.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity, a fun free event, to get people to come out and meet some of the people who might be able to wash your windows, cut your grass, or walk your dog,” Angus said.
The showcase also featured a family table for people to meet members of the community and share tips and experiences.
“It’s really different. It’s not health focused at all, it’s more focused on connecting,” Angus said. “We really wanted to see what are the things in your house, how to meet neighbours.”
A new housing concept for seniors presented during the showcase is co-housing. Rosemary Burris, who is part of the Thunder Bay Co-Housing Initiative, said nothing like this has been done in Thunder Bay before, but it appears people are interested and willing to move forward with the idea.
“We are not wanting a condo, not prepared to go to a profit model, we feel that we could offer an intergenerational, shared accommodation that would meet a lot of the needs of the population for safe housing, affordable housing, and meaningful community,” she said.
Co-housing would see a group of people living in a communal space, which according to Burris, would offer seniors a wide variety of benefits.
“Just beyond saving money because you share resources, you can buy in bulk, share communal meals, we could share one lawnmower, one set of snow shovels, share bicycles, kayaks, occasional recreational equipment,” she said. “There are a lot of reasons for it.”
There are six members of the Thunder Bay Co-Housing Initiative who are interested in moving forward and Burris said they would like to see at least 12 people total join in project.
“We are putting out feelers to people beyond our group,” she said. “There are many other people there who support the concept.”
Angus said they are hoping to continue the showcase in the future because this is information seniors not only want, but really need.
“There are a lot of businesses starting up in Thunder Bay that are really good, reputable, like working with seniors, affordable, and help you out a lot in the long run. That’s what we want to do today, is give people some of those options.”
“I think people want to talk about new things,” she said. “It’s going to be a really positive experience. Getting older in Thunder Bay doesn’t have to be lonely. It is important to connect and that is what we are trying to do.”
For more information visit the Age Friendly GIANTS website.