Don't even think about calling these residences the Old Folks' Home. When it comes to today's retirement homes, think internet cafes and movie theatres.

By: Cynthia Ross Cravit, originally published in

What used to be called the Old Folks' Home has, in some cases, come to feel more like a first-class spa hotel staffed by doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists and other specialists. And in addition to new advances in health care and state-of-the-art emergency monitoring, some retirement residences are offering such amenities as internet cafes, movie theatres and even resort area locations.

As Canada's population ages, retirement residences are looking ahead - and expecting a brisk business. Last year, the country surpassed the four million mark in terms of citizens over 65, and this number is projected to increase dramatically over the next 30 years.

Part of the current trend, experts say, is an effort to make retirement residences feel more like home, offering more choice and fewer restrictions (such as allowing pets, for example). While it certainly makes good business sense to stay competitive in the growing 'mature' market, there can be little doubt these advancements foster a healthier psychological and social environment for residents.

How To Know

What's the best retirement residence or long-term care facility for you or a loved one? Retirement residences vary widely in terms of care, supportive services and amenities. It's all about finding the best facility to meet both your medical needs and lifestyle preferences - and, of course, your budget. To give you an idea of what's out there, surveyed a few retirement living/long-term care options:

Chartwell Seniors Housing

Chartwell Seniors Housing is Canada's largest provider of retirement residences and offers a wide range of services and accommodation from Independent Living Retirement Residences to Long-Term Care.

Chartwell's vision is "to create and operate seniors housing communities where our residents enjoy a lifestyle and quality of life exceeding their expectations," said the company's Vice Chair and Co-CEO Stephen Suske in a speech to the Ontario Residential Care Association.

According to Mr. Suske, this means keeping abreast of the changing needs and preferences of residents. In addition to advancements in security, phone systems and emergency monitoring, Chartwell has designed internet cafes, movie theatres and upgraded exercise facilities into both their new homes and some existing ones. Other projects include incorporating a live theatre as an adjacent neighbour or offering retail outlets within the residence.

"We are also working on sites in resort areas, so our residents will be able to live in the area where they made many fond memories," Suske said. "This is where they went to the cottage or ski chalet - and where the kids and grandkids will know where to find them and be sure to visit!"

At Chartwell, retirement residences provide hotel-style or apartment suites that are rented to customers on a monthly basis with a meal and service package included. A resident can select from Independent Living, Full Care or Assisted Living programs.

Long-Term Care Residences are licensed or authorized as government-regulated or funded LTC facilities. LTC Residences are designed to accommodate people who may require 24-hour per day care and suffer from a cognitive or physical impairment. These residences may include shared, companion or private suites.

Sunrise Senior Living

Twenty-five years ago, Paul and Terry Klaassen were on a mission: to improve the quality of life for seniors and to create a fresh alternative for those with long-term care needs. The Klaassens' vision was to move beyond the institutional feel of senior living residences and create an environment designed around people - a place where residents would like to live, families would like to visit and team members would like to work.

This dream resulted in more than 440 senior living and care communities in Canada, Europe and the United States. The company describes its homes as "true aging in place communities" with care services designed specifically for each individual.

"Sunrise fills the gap between a retirement home and a long-term care facility," says Laura Stokes, Oakville's Director of Community Relations. "We're proud of being resident-centered, and of our team members' caring hearts and compassionate spirits."

Sunrise offers a wide range of options for residents including independent living, assisted living and Reminiscence, an innovative program designed for Alzheimer's Disease and related forms of dementia.

The Alzheimer's program involves gaining a thorough understanding of the stories and details of a senior's life, so that care staff can help them attain what is referred to as their "pleasant days". Guided by staff specifically trained to help people with memory impairments, residents are encouraged to engage in everyday activities in surroundings that are both safe and stimulating. Support is also available to family caregivers through Sunrise's support groups and other resources.

The newest Sunrise property, Ontario's Thorne Mill, opened in September 2007. The Independent Living residence offers a choice of suite floor plans, restaurant-style dining, housekeeping services as well as exercise and wellness programs.

The daughter of a resident says of Sunrise: "We don't feel as though we've put our mother in a home. We feel like we have given her a home."

Amica Mature Lifestyles

Amica offers luxurious residences in Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, Newmarket and other prime locations across Canada.

The company's trademarked principles of Wellness & Vitalityâ„¢ are offered at every Amica Mature Lifestyles community. The Wellness & Vitality program, manned by professionally trained Wellness & Vitality coordinators, are meant to encourage friendships, new experiences, a healthy lifestyle and a sense of community.

With the aim to nurture not only the body but the spirit, staff members work closely with residents to design an individualized Wellness & Vitality program to improve the quality of life and overall health. The program emphasizes the connection between physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Activities such as dancing, for example, can not only make you feel happy, but it can be a great exercise for the brain and the body. "Tango dancing, according to the researchers, is beneficial to older adults because many of the same elements in tango are found in a standard neurological rehab program," says Rob Huppée, Manager of Wellness & Vitality at Amica. "This is great news for older adults who are looking for a fun and social activity that will benefit them both physically and mentally. So grab a partner and get to it, because after all, it does take 'two to tango'!"

Amica residents can select from a range of accommodation options including Condominium Living for Mature Adults, Rental Retirement Community, Assisted Living Suites and Short-term Needs Programs.

Retirement Residences Group

When it comes to retirement residences, this company operates on the premise that one size definitely does not fit all. Instead, Retirement Residences Group seeks to create a retirement experience tailored specifically to a person's care needs, budget and lifestyle.

With this in mind, the company offers 4 distinct lifestyle options ranging from luxurious to homey. Recreation and entertainment include lively current event discussions, informative lectures, comical movies, billiards, toe-tapping concerts or a soothing session of tai chi.

The type of care a resident receives is customized to the individual, and the company offers its CarePledge Program which combines personalized care with a fee structure that ensures that a resident pays only for the care he or she receives.

Vacation and short-term stays are also a popular option, offering a secure environment while a caregiver or family is on vacation or for care during convalescence.

The company also offers its professionally staffed Rapid Response hotline (1-877-929-9222) which operates 24/7 to help people find immediate short-term, long-term, respite, assisted living, convalescence, or permanent care.

Since 1961 Retirement Residences Group has grown from one residence to over 200 homes across Canada. 

Mississauga Senior Real Estate: Working With a Lifestyle 55+ Affiliate

Have questions or need advice on how to make decisions based on choice and not circumstance? As a Lifestyle 55+ Affiliate, I believe that every senior deserves personalized service, deep local market knowledge and a commitment to putting their needs first. That's why I offer a range of services that are designed to meet the unique needs of seniors in Mississauga, including:

  • A free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your real estate goals and needs
  • Specialized expertise in helping seniors navigate the downsizing process
  • Access to a network of trusted professionals, including movers, estate planners and home stagers
  • A commitment to transparency, honesty and integrity in all of our dealings

If you have any questions about real estate in Mississauga or the downsizing process, don't hesitate to contact me, Deborah Clerk, Real Estate Sales Representative and Lifestyle55+ Affiliate with Keller Williams Real Estate Associates, Brokerage. I am here to help you every step of the way, and we look forward to working with you soon.

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