With an increasing number of Baby Boomers aging, the senior living sector is expected to grow significantly across many cities in Canada. And Calgary is no exception. The question that arises is, what types of facilities are being planned and built to manage this demand in the city within the next decade?
“In 2014, there were approximately 169,000 Baby Boomers in Calgary,” says Jennifer Fulkerth, executive director of The Journey Club, , Calgary’s first resort-style, lakefront community located within Westman Village.
Westman Village encompasses condos, leases, senior’s residences and active adult living, in addition to the 40,000-square-foot Village Centre amenity centre, as well as onsite retailers and restaurants. The Journey Centre offers a range of care services for seniors including independent living, age-in-place assisted living, and their Memory Care Program, a dementia care model known as Butterfly Care Homes, a person-centred care program based on the Meaningful Care Matters model.
Faster Growing Age Group
“There are currently over 230,000 baby boomers in Calgary,” says Fulkerth. “Between 2014 and 2042, the growth rate of the 65-plus age group is double the rate for the total population. This population is the fastest growing age group in Calgary. It is projected in 2034 that there will be approximately 322,000 Baby Boomers.”
As this age group continues to grow, she says it is vital that that there are residences and communities that cater to the needs of this population – whether it is a retirement community, aging in place and considerations for additional memory care.
“Affordable housing for seniors continues to be in short supply in Calgary, with concerns that there will be more seniors than affordable placement options as the population grows.”
Heather Collingridge is community relations coordinator at The Edward – an independent senior living property located in the South Calgary Mount Royal neighbourhood, next to the arts district, cSpace King Edward – which features studios, galleries, performing arts theatres, a community café and a farmer’s market – and Marda Loop, a dining and shopping district.
With 90 suites available for lease, The Edward opened in December 2020 in the midst of the worldwide pandemic, prior to vaccines.
“Once we saw the vaccinations coming, more seniors were ready to move in,” she says.
Collingridge says, in general, the senior living sector has become must less scheduled and has evolved over the last several decades. Just one example is The Edward’s rooftop garden where everything grown is used in their kitchen.
“There are a lot more flexible meal plans and in-suite laundry. In the past, it would have just been a laundry room and a large kitchen. There’s more flexibility for seniors today.”
The Edward offers a variety of services such as three chef-rate meals daily, two restaurants, a theatre and library, wellness and fitness programs, and more. And, while the Edward offers primarily independent living, they also have support such as helping residents in the shower or with their medications.
“We’ve had some residents fall and who needed rehab and we helped with that. We arranged for some private physiotherapy. We don’t have a memory care area, but we do partner with different buildings around us, and we would refer them there.”
Collingridge adds that she doesn’t think Calgary has enough living options available and today, the Edward is nearly full.
“We are finding the phone is ringing more and more and with the aging Baby Boomers, we will find a shortage of retirement homes soon.”
Senior Care Options
Calgary-based Carla Amthor is the CEO of Focus on Caring, a nationally recognized authority on senior and home care. With her company tagline: “delivering the care that seniors deserve,” she and her team retrain how people think about home care and assistance that could support the lifestyle they would love.
“People plan their retirement and their funeral, but they forget about what’s in between. What if there is a medical emergency and they end up in the hospital and then receive the message that they have to go to a facility.”
She adds that people often accept this suggestion as part of the diagnosis or best plan going forward and make decisions from that thought process.
“We believe that people would be well served to be aware of options, allowing them to make choices that are the best ones for them.”
Amthor says our senior and soon-to-be senior population is vastly different from the senior population of decades ago when family members often cared for their aging parents.
“My own grandmother moved into our small-town seniors lodge and it was almost just like changing residences as she knew everyone. The sense of community in the lodge was “old-time” which unfortunately doesn’t seem to exist today.”
Today’s seniors are more independent longer, involved in activities, travel, grandchildren’s lives, even if only through social media. This demographic is unique and special and deserves to be treated as such.
She adds that senior facilities are an important support to our aging population but should not be considered as one’s only option as one ages or when health may be failing.
“I believe that our seniors and their families would be better served to be presented with all options that are available. With the new client directed home care support, more and more seniors have the option of remaining in their homes. In years past, this option didn’t even seem to be presented as it was often not attainable.”
She adds that seniors are the most valuable asset we have and should receive the support and care that they deserve.
“As a province with an aging population, it is incumbent on all of us to create options and solutions to deliver this much deserved support.”
When asked about senior housing options in Calgary, Amthor says there are assisted living and senior living options but believes that every option should be explored allowing best decisions to be made, including aging in place.
“This is why I believe a lifestyle assessment should be part of our plan for our golden years. It is essentially easier to plan for this wonderful part of our lives when we are not under stress and make decisions we might not ordinarily have made.”
In summing things up, Amthor says needing support does not mean you are no longer capable, and you should not be afraid to ask.
“We believe in supporting your independence, quality of life and peace of mind while supporting the lifestyle you would love. Anyone can deliver care, but I want to them to receive the care and lifestyle they deserve. We will continue educating people to what is available and what that could look like. We believe aging is just another adventure waiting to be embraced.”