Senior co-housing is not a new concept but an adaptation of the days when families were large and relatives lived close by. As one grew into the “golden years”, support and inclusion from families and community were the norm. As we adjust to the 21st century, family units are smaller and relatives are dispersed great distances from “home. The golden years for many are quite tarnished and disappointing. Social connections shrink, leaving many seniors feeling isolated and lonely. The 2016 Canadian Census revealed that 28% of households have only one person living in them; 13.9% of the adult population now lives alone. The Atlantic Provinces has the biggest single-person households which is 2-4 times greater than Canada as a whole due to its aging population. Meeting the physical, emotional and mental needs of this “silver tsunami” is essential to overall well being.
In a recent (Aug.6/17) publication of “Medical News Today”, research by Prof. Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University linked loneliness and social isolation with the risk of premature death in 29% to 32% of cases studied, making it a major public health concern surpassing such factors as obesity and smoking. Professor Holt-Lunstad stated that older adults should not only prepare for the financial implications of retirement but for the social implications as well.
Subjective sense of social isolation and loneliness are shown to be profoundly linked to both physical and mental health. Merely living in housing with senior peers, no matter how luxurious it may be, does not itself reduce the feelings of loneliness. A person can be in the presence of others and still feel lonely. Encouraging social participation in mutually rewarding relationships and being connected to others in meaningful and purposeful ways is the best antidote to loneliness. Senior co-housing with this philosophy meets many of the fundamental needs critical to well-being – the 21st century style of the “golden age.