Guest Blog: Housing and Older Adults

By Garth Brown

Many older homeowners, particularly those on fixed incomes, find themselves house rich but struggle to pay the costs of rising taxes, utilities, food and other needs. In Halton Region over 20% of seniors live alone. That increases to over 50% at the age of 85. Maintaining a property can become challenging as the years progress. Mobility in and around the home can also become a challenge.

garth chartMeanwhile, due to unfortunate and sometimes unpredictable circumstances, other individuals, couples and families find themselves applying for Rent Geared to Income (RGI) housing. According to The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association 2014 Wait List Survey report, 1,207 seniors are currently waiting for RGI housing.

The wait can be up to five years due to lack of affordable rental units in Oakville, Burlington, Milton and beyond. Studies confirm that older adults living alone are at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness.

Recognizing the needs of both groups above, municipalities including Burlington, Oakville and Milton have passed by-laws allowing the construction of legal apartments in existing detached homes. Creating an apartment within a home means a homeowner can generate rental income from their property (over $1,000 per month for a one bedroom unit, $1,300 for a two bedroom unit and over $1,500 for a three bedroom unit) while gaining valuable support with home maintenance, added security and socialization opportunities. Best of all, those on the wait list can be served by this new housing stock!

The costs of creating a legal apartment can range from $20,000 to $40,000 depending on the nature of the project. The return on the investment through rental income, tax deductions and increased home equity provides a strong financial motivation for homeowners to re-purpose part of their home or property they hardly ever use. Knowing you have helped provide safe, secure and affordable housing for someone in need is priceless!

About the blogger
Garth Brown, an affordable housing advocate in Oakville, has created a company called Egality that provides full consultation and construction services to create legal apartments within detached homes. For more information contact Garth Brown at



Technology and Aging: Three Ways Technology can help you Reach your Fitness Goals

Older adults who stay physically active benefit from improved mobility, health and mental well-being. One the most common barriers to staying active is finding the motivation to get up and moving. Studies have shown that using pedometers to count the numbers of steps taken daily is associated with increased levels of physical activity. A Stanford study found that “these little devices were shown to increase physical activity by just over 2,000 steps, or about 1 mile of walking per day”.

But why just track your steps when today’s wearables offer so much more data? Check out the innovative products below that have the potential to keep older adults on the move.



Belty is a motorized smart belt that has a built-in pedometer. Wearing this belt also prevents inactivity by vibrating if the wearer has been sedentary for an hour. With Bluetooth capabilities it feeds activity and inactivity summaries along with waistline data into a sister smartphone app. The data is then analyzed to create suggestions on how to improve personal fitness.



Fitbit Zip “tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned – and syncs those stats to your computer and select smartphones. In doing so, it celebrates how much more you do each day. Zip™ encourages you to set goals, challenge friends, and go farther – one step at time.”



Vivofit displays steps, calories, distance and monitors sleep. “Vívofit can turn good intentions into lifelong habits. It’s the only activity tracker that greets you with a personalized daily goal, tracks your progress and reminds you when it’s time to move.”

The Canadian Physical Activities Guidelines state that older adults 65+ need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity daily. Perhaps technology is the key to motivating individuals to start and maintain activities to meet the guidelines.

Did you know?

Many Canadian local libraries offer pedometer lending programs for free.

Arts and Aging: The Masters in Later Life

A recent article in New America Media begins with the words; “Late Matisse. Late Turner. Late Rembrandt.” These were the themes of three large European art exhibitions last year.

In the article, geriatrician Dr. Desmond O’Neill, one of world’s leading researchers in his field, talks about how the art world’s new interest in famous artists’ later works, shows changing societal attitudes about aging.

O’Neill explains that in the past, the aging “narrative has been a simplistic one of loss and decline”. He says that presently “we’ve got to recognize growth in later life. And not only recognize growth, but also the extraordinary abilities of people in later life to cope with the existential problems they have”.

He states that in the past “people used to talk about ‘successful aging’. It means that if you didn’t reach the criteria of successful aging, you’d failed”. Instead, these exhibitions demonstrate how older artists evolved and adapted to the physical and cognitive challenges of aging.

French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) continued to create new, exciting and innovative art despite his physical challenges in later life.

blue-nude-1952Blue Nude – Musée Henri Matisse, Nice, France paper cut out 1952

The Tate Modern Gallery in London exhibited Matisse’s later work in an exhibition last fall.

“The exhibition represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see so many of the artist’s works in one place and discover Matisse’s final artistic triumph. In his late sixties, when ill health first prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to make drafts for a number of commissions. In time, Matisse chose cut-outs over painting: he had invented a new medium.”

An article in The Guardian further examines Matisse’s new technique.

“Matisse was in a wheelchair by 1941, following radical colon surgery at the age of 71. He could no longer work with an easel, and yet became so creatively resurgent with the cut-outs that what he gratefully called his “second life” could just as well apply to his work. Paper and scissors gave him colour and form, and a way of drawing, painting and more, that would evolve through the last 13 years of his life.”

“The famous quartet of ‘Blue Nudes’ were made in 1952, when Matisse was 82. He could not move about, he could not arrange these large but fragile slivers on the wall – a film shows his assistant shifting them around under instruction, and even holding up the sheets of paper while he scissors away.”

Click here to see archival footage of Matisse making a paper cut out.

British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), widely known for his landscape paintings, was a prolific painter in his later years. The Tate gallery featured his later works (from 1835 until his death) in the exhibition Late Turner – Painting Set Free.
Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus exhibited 1839 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851The Departure of the Fleet – Joseph Mallord William Turner, Date Exhibited 1850

The gallery talks about his work as “bringing together spectacular works from the UK and abroad, this exhibition celebrates Turner’s astonishing creative flowering in these later years when he produced many of his finest pictures.”

Released in 2014, the award winning movie ‘Mr. Turner’ explores Turner’s controversial later years.

Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt (1606-1669) is highlighted in the Late Rembrandt exhibition on now at the Rijks museum in Amsterdam.
Familieportret BraunschweigFamily Portrait, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, c. 1665.

“Rembrandt’s later life was marked by tragic personal loss and financial setbacks. Yet it was also the time when he produced his best work. He experimented with paint and light, managing to bring an unprecedented emotional depth to his work. It resulted in his most daring and intimate work.”

These famous artists demonstrate that older adults can continue to pursue their creative passions and produce astonishing works of art. As O’Neill explains “so what we’re actually talking about is ‘optimal aging’ that understands the existential hits that we’re going to take in terms of disability and creates a system that frees you from unnecessary constriction by that disability”.

4 Ways Our Blog Just Got Better

The Aging Matters blog is evolving. We will continue to bring you the latest news, events and ideas on aging every Wednesday but with a new and improved structure to make sure we cover all the topics our readers are interested in. Here’s what you can look forward to in the months ahead:

  1. The Business of Aging
    By 2025, more than 20% of the Canadian population will be over 65. This demographic shift provides unprecedented, immediate business opportunities for companies that respond to the wants and needs of older Canadians and their families.On the first Wednesday of every month, we will share current news, trends and events related to the aging marketplace. Topics will include everything from ways to effectively market to baby boomers, to highlighting entrepreneurs who are transforming the marketplace (and workplace) to meet the demands and needs of an aging population.The Centre established a Business of Aging: Information Exchange Network (BA:IEN) in 2012 that provides a forum for business and industry leaders to come together to discuss business opportunities and to share information and ideas about diversifying their markets and expanding their focus to benefit older consumers. For more information please contact Paulina Camino at or 905.845.9430 x8617.
  1. Arts and Aging
    Numerous studies have shown how participation in the creative and performing arts has the capacity to positively impact cognition, socialization, emotional health, physical fitness and over-all quality of life for older adults, regardless of their physical and/or cognitive abilities.On the second Wednesday of every month, we will explore the arts and its relationship to aging well. Articles will discuss arts based research projects, innovative arts programs, older adult artists, events and resources in the field of creative aging.
  1. Technology and Aging
    Studies have shown that older adults are the fastest growing group that is ‘going online’ and using the Internet, and the fast paced world of technology is reaching far beyond using only home computers as a means of staying connected. Today’s technologies allow older adults to communicate regularly with friends and family from anywhere in the world, support their activities and interests and create opportunities for life-long learning.On the third Wednesday of every month, we will provide information on the latest technologies available to older adults. Robots for caregiving, health and home monitors and medication management tools are just a few of the ways new and innovative technologies are helping older adults age well.
  2. Guest bloggers
    There are many critical issues that face an aging population, and exploring these issues from multiple points of view can lead to clarity and depth of understanding.On the fourth Wednesday of every month, we will feature a guest blogger who is an expert in the field of aging. Issues that touch the lives of older adults will be addressed such as transportation, housing, ageism, fitness, health, social isolation and cognitive well-being.We hope you enjoy the new monthly structure of our blog. Let us know what aging issues are important to you and your family and we will try to feature them in an upcoming post!