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Canadian census: housing for seniors is a concern, say experts

Experts say more affordable and accessible housing is needed for Canada’s aging population, with people over the age of 85 being the fastest growing age group in the country.

The latest data from the 2021 census shows that since 2016, the number of people aged 85 and over has increased by 12%, more than double the overall growth of the Canadian population at 5.2%.

The number of people over 85 has more than doubled since the 2001 census and is expected to triple by 2046, raising questions about who will care for this generation and where they will live.

“Canada is older than it’s ever been and it’s only going to get older,” Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge, Canada’s National Seniors Advocacy Organization, told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.

Without a national strategy, Watts says, seniors will have few housing options as they age unless Canada implements more affordable living scenarios for seniors.

“We also don’t have seniors as part of things like our national housing strategy, only a bit of help with rental markets, but nothing on care for the elderly,” she explained. .

More than one in four seniors in the 85+ age bracket currently live in “congregate living,” such as a seniors’ residence, nursing home, long-term care residence or hospital , according to the census.

Experts say the proportion of seniors living in these facilities only increases with age, as more than half of centenarians receive care in one of these facilities.

However, waiting lists for long-term care beds stretch for years, leaving seniors stuck in hospitals or families struggling to care for loved ones at home.

Watts noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of long-term care, supported independent living and home care for families and communities.

“At the end of the day, we have to make sure we take care of ourselves, because unless there are big changes, the healthcare system won’t be able to do that for us,” she said. .

Carolyn Whitzman, a housing and social policy specialist at the University of Ottawa, says the federal government’s housing strategy must focus on determining who specifically needs housing.

“We really need to focus not just on the overall supply, but more on the right supply. I’m particularly concerned about the low incomes of single seniors who simply can’t afford to raise rents,” said Whitzman at CTV News Channel on Wednesday.

Whitzman said more support is also needed to help modify her home to make it more accessible as she ages, as well as more participation in personal support worker jobs.

“There is a need not only for more collective living, for more accessible apartments, but also for the right kind of services so that people can stay in their homes for as long as possible, which is both economically sound and for social and health reasons absolutely like we should go,” Whitzman said.

She added that Canada may also need to get creative with how it cares for its seniors in the coming decades, such as programs that offer help to build a second suite in its home so young people can live. with and help take care of the eldest.

“Renovation loans so young people can move in — because young people also have affordability issues — and not do formal babysitting, but just keep an eye on the older person living there. So that would be a terrific, inexpensive intervention,” Whitzman said.

Although the average price of homes in Canada continues to rise, Whitzman said the cost of living means seniors can no longer rely solely on selling their homes for retirement.

“Part of the problem is that we’ve placed so much emphasis on homeownership as a retirement savings plan instead of having other investments,” she said.

Whitzman said governments need to address affordable housing for seniors now before the number of people over 85 triples.

“Older people think that if they sell their house they will have enough money to live out the rest of their lives in comfort and dignity,” she said. “But until we build the kind of housing where older people can live in supported care with comfort and dignity, there will be no alternative to staying in a house that may be too big for you or inaccessible until it is almost too late.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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