Updated: Aug 24
Times have changed. That's for sure. It was not long ago when someone said that they were considering moving into a retirement home that usually meant one of two things.
For many seniors the consideration of moving into a retirement home meant upgrading their style of life. This was a time to finally enjoy the pleasures of life. This is what they had worked hard for many years. They wanted to have the freedom of not having to worry about the ongoing issues and concerns owning and managing their own household. No more cutting grass. No more shoveling snow. No more grocery shopping in cooking meals each and every day. No more housekeeping. No more doing laundry. Every meal served “restaurant style”. The thought of a retirement home offered a resort-style lifestyle that afforded them many luxuries and freedom. It is true that it was not long ago when many retirement communities and retirement homes only accepted Independent, fully capable and mobile residents. This was lifestyle like living on a cruise ship. Waking up each morning their biggest decision would be what to have for breakfast. Served and catered to them in a dining room. Then again the same would happen at lunch time and for supper. Decisions daily about what activity or social gathering to attend to. To play a round of golf or go to the wine tasting. Dry cleaning laundry and housekeeping all provided for. Life is good. This truly was the mindset and provisions, services and amenities provided by the majority of “retirement homes” not long ago.
At the opposite end of the spectrum were the extremely frail seniors. Many had aged and developed some form of illness or mobility restriction and needed the daily assistance and support of assisted living.
This group of seniors had to accept the reality that they could no longer live on their own independently. They needed some level of assistance on a daily basis or more frequently. Most often this was a result of some level of illness or perhaps multiple falls within their own private residence that led to some form of hospitalization. Often it is the hospital medical team that would not allow for the senior to return to their home to an independent living scenario.
Fast forward to today. I write to you on warm sunny day in August of 2020. Things are a little different. For one, there exists heavily regulated Long Term Care LTC facilities (“nursing homes”) which are not retirement residences. LTC facilities now provide for the heaviest level of care for our most frail seniors.
Retirement Homes, on the other hand, can be licensed to offer a wide range of services and care.
When I say “wide range” I mean it. Some retirement homes are in fact, still a place to transition to the next phase of one’s life in style and comforts. These places usually offer no or little care services but instead are designed to cater to a resort style or cruise ship style of life. These are in fact beautiful places and would be desired by many. However, if you experience even the slightest frailty, some mobility constraints or any form of memory loss or dementia, you will asked to leave.
The largest grouping of retirement residences in Ontario are in fact, loosely stated, more like a dedicated seniors apartment with onsite staffing to provide for services, care and extra amenities. In my experience, I would easily suggest that most retirement residences have care team consisting of RPN nurses, PSWS, UCPs and other personal care support staff. This is to support a large compliment of their residents; seniors who require some form of support with one or more ADL and required the services of assisted living.
We are not suggesting that today’s retirement homes look like long-term care facilities or nursing homes, but in fact the average retirement home in Ontario is a blend of both the independent, full-service amenities with qualified nursing and PSW care support. Given a cross section of a one hundred resident seniors complex, it would be usual to see about a third of these residents quite and fully capable to live independently (some even have their own car, etc.), about a third of the residents would be those who are mostly independent in mobility and memory loss, but need someone there “just in case” an accident, fall or illness suddenly occurs. The final third of residents would require some form of daily ADL assisted living support and are often on a waiting list for Long term care.
As a natural question in this process, we always get asked about costs and pricing. I have written about this in a previous post, and used criteria based on location of residence, quality of the building, apartment unit and amenities and the care and services provided. All of these factors play a key role in the total monthly costs of a resident’s stay at a retirement residence. Here’s the general range: an upper scale home with high end finishes located in Toronto, GTA will run you about $7,000 to $9,000 per month. And this may not include any care services. On contrast, a mid-range quality building, spaces and amenities with a decent supplement of care and services included, located well outside Toronto, GTA or any other major city, will run about $2,500 for a studio. Hence the interest from Toronto area seniors in moving to a retirement home located outside the GTA such as Port Hope or Cobourg, Ontario, as one example.
If you are a fully independent and capable senior looking to escape your daily routines living in your home and considering a move into a retirement home is today's version of a retirement community a suitable setting for you? Will you will receive all the luxuries, services, activities and social and amenities from the good old days or are you comfortable living in a community of seniors that have these comforts but also include a mix of seniors that both resemble yourself and others that are requiring daily assistance? Perhaps that will take a little bit of a mindset adjustment.