Seniors across Ontario may soon be building healthier lives and stronger communities right at home, thanks to the efforts of Western researchers and colleagues across the province focused on helping seniors live independently as long as possible.
Launched in Kingston, Ont., in 2009, the Oasis Senior Supportive Living Inc. program is designed to enable seniors to age with dignity while remaining at home through supports designed around the expressed needs and wishes of the seniors themselves. It is a concept, Occupational Therapy professor Carri Hand explained, that recognizes the importance of self-determination in aging.
“It’s meant to build connections among residents in the building, provide an opportunity for activities and socialization, provide opportunities for nutrition if they are not cooking as much as they’d like, or want to,” she said. “All this things are meant to help them ‘age in place’ successfully. We are looking to see what the impacts are, and the process of implementing this type of a model, to see if it’s effective and worthy of being spread across more widely.”
‘Aging in place’ is defined as seniors having the health, social supports and services needed to live safely and independently in their home or community for as long as they wish and are able.
Toward that end, Oasis communities are located where there are sizable populations of seniors, for example apartments and mobile home parks, rather than creating new senior-specific facilities. In doing so, Oasis allows residents to build a community of support where they live, fostering social connections and self-determination.
The program uses existing resources and facilities within each city to offer a unique set of services based on the needs of each community.
In London, Oasis is running in three Jalna Boulevard apartment complexes. Funded by Baycrest Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, the year-long project has been addressing some of the more common challenges faced by seniors living in private-sector accommodations, including adequate nutrition, isolation, loneliness, physical fitness and fear of injury and falls.
Oasis is currently working with Hand and fellow Western Occupational Therapy professors Debbie Rudman and Colleen McGrath, along with Queen’s and McMaster university researchers, in regards to expanding the project across Ontario.
“We typically have four days of programming – from catered dinners, games, bingo, guest speakers – which is all driven by the seniors. They determine what they like to see,” Hand said. “The social benefits are good, but being involved in the activities offers great physical health benefits, as well.
“It’s been very positive this past year – they’ve really liked it. They’re meeting neighbours they may not have known before, even when they lived on the same floor. That is a nice connection.”
More than 9-of-10 Ontario seniors live outside assisted living – and would like to remains living independently for as long as possible. Hand said if that need can be delayed it’s a win-win situation.
“We’re definitely on the right track,” Hand said. She cited 12 Oasis members in the Kingston program were eligible for long-term care in 2015, but opted to age in place instead. “It is a concept that recognizes the importance of self-determination, enabling seniors to remain at home and age with dignity.”
The year-long London Oasis project will end this February.