Creative Housing Opportunities for Older Adults

As the population of older adults grows, the need for elder-friendly housing and communities that encourage self-reliance and support independence becomes increasingly important. ~ Vital Aging Network

Housing is an important issue for older adults who may be facing financial and health challenges. Creative housing ideas such as home sharing programs are being developed as a way to support aging in place.

The Golden Circle home sharing program in Alberta matches college students with older adults. The program offers the older adults increased security and reduced isolation while the students receive affordable housing. In exchange for low affordable housing the students are expected to assist with 4-10 hours of household chores and errands.

North American agencies such as the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens offer Home Sharing Programs that link older adult ‘hosts’ age 60+, that have extra bedrooms in their homes, who are looking to share expenses, chores or companionship and with ‘guests’. The program is free and professional social workers “thoroughly screen and check the references of all host and guest applicants”. Once a match is made the participants sign an agreement.

The non-profit organization Golden Girl Homes in Minnesota offers shared housing opportunities specifically for older women. For $25 a year individuals who wish to share their homes can join the aptly named Blanche Devereaux Society that allows members to ‘advertise’ their space and join in on group activities.

The United Kingdom based Homeshare International Network encourages “a society in which fewer people live lonely and isolated lives, and where intergenerational solidarity is promoted”. Individuals can check the ‘Programmes Worldwide’ section of their website to find home share matches in 13 countries.

Home sharing may not be a solution for everyone’s housing challenges, but it is an interesting option. Let us know your housing stories.



Creative Aging Conference

June 10 – 14, 2014 marked the first National Leadership Exchange & Conference on Creative Aging in Washington, DC.

The conference was called “The Creative Age: Exploring Potential in the Second Half of Life” and was presented by the National Centre for Creative Aging (NCCA) a centre founded in 2001 which is “dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging and to developing programs that build on this understanding”.

Some takeaway messages from the conference included that participation in the arts can have a positive impact on quality of life and that the capacity for new learning and creativity only continues to grow as we age. These messages harkened back to the work done by American psychiatrist Dr. Gene Cohen.

In 2006 Dr. Gene Cohen published the results of his Creativity and Aging Study, which compared two groups of participants, one that attended weekly art-based programming and another that did not. The results showed that those who attended art programs reported better health, fewer doctors visits and less medication use, more positive responses on mental health measures and more involvement in overall activities when compared with those who did not attend art programs.

Given what is known about the role of the arts in health and health promotion, conference delegates shared best practices in art program design and implementation. This was done through case studies of community arts programs that successfully engaged older adults in creative endeavours and creative expression. Programs like those offered through Lifetime Arts, a nonprofit organization which encourages “creative aging by promoting the inclusion of professional arts programs in organizations, prepares artists to develop the creative capacity of older adults learners and fosters lifelong learning in and through the arts…” The Lifetime Arts’ Libraries Project offers professionally taught art classes in 22 community library systems across 12 states.

Speaking of community-based art programs, it’s almost that time of year again. On September 26, 27 & 28 Canada celebrates Culture Days, a weekend to discover and participate in a variety of free arts programming in every community. Find an activity near you and get creative!



Older Adult Entrepreneurs

You often hear about young entrepreneurs (Steve Jobs!) starting up successful businesses in their parents’ garage but there is a growing and often overlooked demographic of older adults who possess the knowledge, life experience and desire to create successful businesses. Creating a business plan and finding your target audience are essential to starting your own business but equally important is finding the supports to see your vision become a reality.

An article in Entrepreneur magazine titled Late Bloomers offers an inspiring list of older adults who have taken the leap and started their own successful businesses. These dynamic businesses are born out of personal life experiences, which propelled creative and very successful ideas.

These successful entrepreneurs are no surprise to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors (CSA). The CSA website proudly states that “according to the U.S. Department of Labor, seniors are the largest group of individuals starting new businesses”.

As part of the Centre’s Business of Aging: Information Exchange Network (BA:IEN), we often provide resources and forums to share best practices about new business ventures, specifically targeting older consumers. For our upcoming breakfast meeting on July 30, we are expanding that focus to include resources to support entrepreneurs, be they young or old, in creating new solutions for the mature market. See flyer below for details.

BAIEN mtg July_14 V3




The Inspirational Olga Kotelko

senior-trackGrowing old happens whether we like it or not, so why not make the best of these years? ~ Olga Kotelko

Last month, Canadian born, masters track and field star Olga Kotelko passed away at the age of 95. Kotelko’s remarkable, record-breaking athletic career began when she was 77 years old and has been a source of inspiration for many. Olga competed worldwide in sprinting, high jump, long jump, triple jump and her favourite, the hammer throw.

In an interview on BBC World News, conducted when she was 91 years old, Kotelko talks about her love of competition and the joy of camaraderie that comes with being an athlete.

What Makes Olga Run? The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives is a book searching for answers to explain her unique capabilities. The author of the book, Bruce Grierson, who is “convinced that this remarkable woman could help unlock many of the mysteries of aging, set out to uncover what it is that’s driving Olga. He considers every piece of the puzzle, from her diet and sleep habits to how she scores on various personality traits, from what she does in her spare time to her family history”.

In a CBC Q Jian Ghomeshi interview of Olga and author Grierson, he points out that Olga “certainly redefines the phrase ‘late bloomer’”. The interview discusses ‘the importance of her lifestyle choices’ combined with good genes as a possible explanation for her athletic prowess. When asked how much she exercises each day Olga responds by saying that she has no idea because she is “never idle”.

Olga is featured with four other athletes in Grey Glory: a documentary about Canadian seniors who are pushing their bodies to the limit. The documentary’s message is that it’s never to late to start exercising. To illustrate that message it “tells the story of five Canadian athletes in the 65-plus age group who are defying the stereotype of seniors as frail, slow and unfit. Also featured in the film are Regina runner/triathlete Milos Kostic, 72, who has competed in more than 20 Ironman triathlons; Calgary gymnast Ed Vincent, 76; Winnipeg bodybuilder Tom Heffner, 68; and West Vancouver’s Christa Bortignon, 76, who was so moved by Kotelko’s successes that she also took up track and field in her 70s”.

Kotelko wrote her own book shortly before she passed away entitled Olga: The O.K. Way to a Healthy, Happy Life where she extolls the virtues of focusing “less on my age and more on how I age”. Olga encourages older adults to embrace the pleasures of physical, mental and spiritual well-being by offering tips on how to stay fit.

Check out Olga’s website where she is described as an individual who “believed an optimistic attitude and regular exercise contribute to good health, better energy, and a happier disposition”.