VANCOUVER ISLAND – As technological advancements and improvements to housing, healthcare and mobility continue to redefine age-imposed limitations, perhaps it’s time we rethink the idea that getting old is no fun.
Regardless of how we feel about it, Canadians are getting older and that demographic is nowhere more apparent than here on the West Coast.
“There is a growing realization, particularly when the census came out last year, that our country and most western countries, are ageing quite rapidly,” said Terry Lake, CEO at BC Care Providers Association. “We now have more people over 65 than under 15 and the fastest growing part of our population here in BC are those 80 years and over.”
“That really does shift the way that society has to accommodate the demographics.”
Lake has been at the helm of BC Care for just over two years but his ideas around senior care and the future of senior living in Canada have been mental strongholds for some time. Hailing from Saskatchewan, Lake brings over a decade of varied experience in the social services realm, experience that has taught him that Canadians need to reshape their ideas around age.
“Ageism is something that has always existed and it’s understandable when we are young and in our prime we don’t want to think about getting old,” said Lake. “But, we still have that ageism holding back our investment in this demographic, which I believe holds a huge amount of economic promise.”
“When you look at Vancouver Island, it is the oldest region of the province and that’s not a surprise, a lot of people love to retire to the island and there are many people from the prairies and other regions that will settle and retire on the island,” said Lake.
“While the population of the province is aging, on the island it is aging even faster, which if properly prepared for, could be advantageous.”
This is a bubbling opportunity, according to Lake. If communities can be optimized and organized for senior care and accessibility, they can begin to harness the power that the senior society has. Things like volunteerism, which many seniors are eager to contribute their time to. Additionally, seniors have spending power, so creating spaces that allow them that luxury will inject more contributions into the economy.
The reality is senior care has evolved which makes the demographic more capable and more likely to be out in their communities each day.
“With the advent of online and Bluetooth equipment, therapists and caretakers will be able to manage a larger caseload utilizing technology as a complement to their services,” said Cameron Fleming, CIIO & Co-founder, HME Home Health. “Manufacturers continue to introduce more remote monitoring capabilities and it will largely depend on the client and caretakers to embrace the digital assistance available.”
Fleming and his team recently opened a 13,000 square foot facility in Nanaimo to service the North Island and stocks some of the most advanced and innovative mobility equipment available in the country. This accessibility has allowed HME Home Health to extend quality-of-life and give seniors more action and capability in their own communities, thrusting them into more active, independent lifestyles.
These improvements to care make assisted living easier and more efficient as do the budding investments in housing infrastructure.
“In 2022, we opened our Parksville independent living and assisted living facility,” said Lesley Sikorski, Director of Sales, Marketing and Internal Community Engagement at Berwick Retirement Communities.
Berwick Retirement Communities has eight sites on the island that accommodate over 1000 seniors with independent living, assisted living and two sites with long term care. Berwick is on the forefront of revolutionizing senior housing so that seniors can live to their full potential.
“It has been very cookie cutter for a long time and what we are trying to do is dramatically reframe how we think about aging,” said Sikorski. “Instead of doing the same things that we have always done, we are looking to introduce what’s new and revamp the entire active living program.”
Sikorski frequently employs the term resort-style living, which is what all Berwick communities strive for.
“Our seniors are so capable, so much more capable nowadays with the access to healthcare that we have in this country, we are living better, longer,” said Sikorski. “That’s the trend and that’s the goal: innovation and resort-style living that radically reframes our idea of what ageing is – change the language, create multi-purpose spaces, more focus on fitness.”
The company follows the US, who typically is “five to 10 years ahead of Canada,” according to Sikorski, and some of the disruptions happening there are sure to follow here. Things like technological advancements in resort-style living that allow for connecting, reviewing and online chatting.
“Anyway we can break down those barriers and offer a limitless experience when it comes to community programming, that’s what we want to do.”
Aging better just makes seniors more able to contribute to our society in a positive way and the retirement industry has the tools to do so.
“We are here to facilitate you to age on your own terms, we are not here to put parameters around living,” said Sikorski. “This is a different stage of life, it is not the end, it is just different and we are here to support you and provide a limitless idea of what this life could be like.”
By Tyler Nyquvest