Friday, 1 February 2019

Eating Alone

I wonder if anyone has ever researched how many people actually make healthy, tasty, well-presented meals, when they  live alone and are only preparing food for themselves. I would venture to guess that cooking a gourmet meal for oneself when eating alone, doesn't happen very often, regardless of the age group we are talking about. I know when I lived alone, I would usually grab something quick and easy rather than taking the time to prepare and present a meal as I do for my family. And so, it comes as no surprise, that seniors living alone, may not eat very well; in some cases, they may even be malnourished.  

Its a simple fact that eating is more enjoyable when the experience is shared with others. Mealtime for many is a social event - a time to catch up with others, share conversation and enjoy company.  For a senior who is either used to preparing a meal to share with another or used to having a spouse prepare their meals for them, having to eat alone, especially if they have spent a lifetime sharing a meal with someone else, can impact nutrition in a significant, negative way. 

The perception by many is that as we get older and less active we eat less - which may be true - but it's important to still ensure that what we do eat is nutritious and a balanced diet. 

So what can we do to encourage seniors we know, who live alone, to eat well? As a first step, invite them to eat with you regularly. If you can, have a set day of the week where you see them over lunch or dinner. Look into local community agencies or seniors centres that have occasional communal dining. Suggest they create a friend group that visits over meals and perhaps rotates hosting a meal or does a weekly potluck dinner so everyone shares in the preparation. Even if there is only one other person they know in a similar situation, it would benefit both of them to share a meal once a week whether it's out in a restaurant or in one of their homes. Failing all of that, find out about their local meals on wheels agency where hot inexpensive meals are delivered daily or ,look into frozen meal delivery services (many are online allowing for easy ordering and delivery). While these last two options can ensure healthy eating for one, don't underestimate the importance of eating with others for one's social, mental and emotional health. In fact, many housing options for seniors also include a component of communal dining for this very purpose; new and innovative seniors housing solutions that are in their infancy like the co-housing model, also include a shared dining and kitchen space so no one eats alone. As housing options grow and change, I'm sure we will see even more acknowledgement of the importance of not eating alone. 

Friday, 18 January 2019

Multi-generational Living

Whenever I talk about senior housing options, I will often raise the topic of living with family. It's wonderful when families are willing to take in elder relatives but often there can be issues with the arrangement as one would expect when you amalgamate households and different living styles. As well, since many families have two working people, its often difficult to incorporate care for an elderly loved one into the mix of responsiblities. The North American lifestyle for many has forced us to move away from multi-generations living under one roof, even for those who culturally have expectations on them.
As we are seeing though,  private companies and organizations are coming up with innovative and alternate housing options as more and more people reach that 'senior' age cohort. I read recently about a builder who is designing homes specifically for multi-generational living allowing for the amalgamation of homes as two separate side-by-side private residences - one as a bugalow structure and the other as a two-storey family dwelling. Called a FlexHouz, it is a far better solution than moving loved ones into your basement or an upstairs bedroom if they are still independent and want their privacy. Keeping in mind that climbing stairs can become an issue for an older person, this allows for the senior to be all on one level and to have regular contact with family when they want or need it. As well, it does allow for aging in place if a caregiver is eventually required. It seems to be a better solution than renovating a home to accomodate two households especially if both parties currently own a property that they are willing to sell to move in together. While it appears that only one builder in Ontario is testing this concept out right now, if it catches on, I can see more and more homes being built like this as we need to consider different ways to retire and to care for our elderly. The article indicated that the builder had offered up 7 lots with this design and they sold out within 6 minutes! I'll be watching this concept with anticipation, anxious to see how many other builders pick up on the idea and how widespread it becomes.

Information for this article obtained from: 

Thursday, 3 January 2019

New Year, New Edition!

Happy New Year!
This year we are trying something new. As our regulars know, for the past 22 years we have done an annual publication on retirement residences and resources for seniors that is released every January (called the Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living® ). This year we decided to move away from print in an effort to save a few trees and allow for a mass FREE online distribution of The Guide which is sure to get it in the hands of even more people than ever before. The Guide can be downloaded directly to any computer without restriction or cost. The link to download your very own copy of our 2019 Guide is

The content of our well-known publication is the same as before, though it’s expanded across Canada and has a revised colour resource layout. Because it’s digital, it has the benefit of having bookmarks and live links throughout, making it easier to find what you need quickly. It is full colour with full size pages and larger print that can be expanded as needed through any PDF reader. There are links at the bottom of every page of, that will lead users to the download. continues to work towards becoming the #1 resource for ‘all things senior’. We are always looking for new ways to better meet the changing needs of our users, homes and resources.
Please keep in mind that all homes in Canada are offered the opportunity to be part of our publication. For various reasons, some choose not to be in it – this is not a reflection of the quality of the home or any decision on our part to exclude them.

Please pass on our web address ( ) to anyone you know who may have use for our publication or online information. We continue to add new features to the site and, homes have access to update information as often as they wish as well as add various extras like photos, virtual tours, videos, and social media feeds. We encourage you to visit us often to view our resources, articles, and information on housing options for seniors.

In addition, this week we are re-launching our new, second site,, a member-only professional site allowing for comparative and competitive searches of all seniors housing options across Canada. With this new site we have expanded our reach to different kinds of housing, are beta testing a vacancy program, have added consultation services and  a well-defined resource section to make it the first of its kind in Canada. Feel free to take a look and view the various options available to seniors and professionals who work with them. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks and months.

We value input from all our users and take it into account when preparing the next edition so, please take some time to email any comments, questions, or requests to  in the coming months.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Senior Isolation During the Holiday Season

As the holidays fast approach, and we busy ourselves with the activity of the season, I wonder about those seniors that are shut ins, frail, disabled or don't have family and friends to connect with. Sometimes we get so caught up in the holidays, shopping, cooking and family time that we forget that there are so many who don't have the opportunity to experience or enjoy these things we take for granted simply becuase of circumstance. for many seniors, the holidays can bring isolation, depression and related health issues. It can be a time when you feel your losses the most as we all tend to think back to happier times with those we have lost.

So what can we do to help? If you know a senior in your community or network, stop by and ask what they are doing for the holidays. If it seems that they are alone and isloated, invite them to share in your own celebrations or those happening in your/their community. If they can't leave their home, offer to provide a meal for the holidays. If you have a senior relative that lives far away, see if you can use technology to connect with them. Do they have a computer that you can skype them on? If not, a phone call will suffice. It's feeling that sense of connection and caring that they may yearn for most.  Even if you dont know a senior or are not close to anyone that is alone and isolated, you can still make a difference in someone's life. Visit your local retirement home or nursing home during the holidays and spend some time visiting with people who do not have family. With the major focus on commercialism and the physical act of 'gift giving' we often lose sight fo the fact that the gift of companionship and friendship is the most valuable thing you can give someone else.

Monday, 3 December 2018

The Retirement Cruiser

As our regulars know, I often write about different and innovative retirement living options. I'm always interested in what's current and where things seem to be going when it comes to seniors housing. The other day I read about a man who has taken something that until now, I considered a 'chain email' concept, and turned it into his reality. I'm certain many of our readers have received that email that talks about how its cheaper to live on a cruise ship than in a retirement home .... it shows up in my inbox at least once a year .... well, there is a fellow who decided to make a cruise ship home more than a dozen years ago. He is mentally alert, fairly healthy, in his 90's, widowed and almost fully blind. He has a home in Florida which he uses to store his belongings but rarely goes there. He spends his days cruising around and staying on the ship with staff who know him well and cater to all of his needs. The article didn't indicate the cost involved or how the cruise company agreed to this arrangement (or if there is a 'out-clause' if his needs exceed what they are able to do) but it did get me thinking about the viability of such an arrangement.
Clearly, it only works because he is independent. Like most retirement homes, he gets his meals, housekeeping services and entertainment. He mostly interacts with staff who attend to him as required. But beyond them, he has no lasting relationships. His kids visit when he docks in their city's port but he doesn't have an opportunity to socialize with people of his age and stage. If he gets too sick to be looked after by the crew, he will have to be relocated. I do wonder how that scenario would play out.
As someone who loves cruising, I understand the desire to vacation on a cruise ship. However, after a week on board, maximum 10 days, I am anxious for land, and home. I cannot understand, wanting to retire full-time on a boat, cut off from everyone but the crew. From a practical perspective, or maybe its a social work perspective, I see red flags everywhere in a situation like this and I remain convinced that a retirement home is a far better setting for someone in their 90's who needs a bit of assistance. And as a family member, I would not want an elderly loved one, at sea for years. I wonder what led him to make this choice and why he considers it preferable to living in a retirement setting with the potential for more amenities and care and in close proximity to his friends and family. I suspect there is more to this story than the brief interview I read and am left with more questions than answers to this retirement option.
As our readers know, there are many different housing opportunities for seniors  - and many new and innovative ones coming soon - but I hope living on a cruise ship is one that will not become popular anytime soon. I think, in retirement, one needs to consider several things when making decisions around relocation including proximity to health care and hospitals, family and friends and amenities and care required, now and in the future. And I know that there are many retirement settings that can provide a much better quality of life than living on a ship. In fact, there are many people I have talked to who have described a retirement home as a 'cruise ship on land'.
So, if you are an avid cruiser and are considering this option when you get that chain email in your inbox, before really considering it, check out a retirement home; go for a visit, try a meal, stay for a week and see if you like it. Consider your proximity to family and friends, the care you will get now and what you can get in the future if your needs change. I hope you will look at the many options out there in your community and beyond before making a cruise ship your permanent retirement destination..........

Friday, 2 November 2018

Where do you want to live at 80 or 90?

Many people, simply do not think about what they want for themselves when the time comes that they cannot live alone. For many, moving into a care home becomes something that happens in a crisis when options are limited and in some cases, when someone else decides for you. People rarely think about one day needing care or support. And few people choose to relocate to a care setting when they are healthy  and/or young seniors. So, I'm always fascinated when I read about people who think outside the box when it comes to senior housing and what they want for themselves 20 or 30 years down the road.

A few days ago a read about two couples (who are in their 50's/60s) in Toronto who decided to create their own co-housing opportunity to share with a few other couples. Intent on aging in place and avoiding loniliness, isolation and potentially, institutionalization, these two couples have bought a house they are renovating that will house up to 12 people with private space for each and shared common areas. They have legally incorporated their company, created rules for their living situation and thought through the financial implications for those wishing to buy in to their venture. They even hosted a workshop to explain their concept to interested and potential house-mates.

The idea of co-housing is not new. It's popular in parts of Europe and the USA. There are a few communities in Canada (primarily in BC) but Ontario has been slow to follow. That being said, in the next several years, it will be interesting to see how the concept develops and moves throughout the country as our aging poplulation starts looking for alternatives to institutionalization and our public system has trouble coping with the increasing need for seniors' housing.

Co-housing fosters interdependence, a caring support network and a shared-care opportunity decreasing the burden on a stressed public system. As the boomer generation starts thinking about how they want to live during their senior years, after witnessing their parents generations' options, I do believe that innovation will be rampant and we will start seeing more viable and beneficial housing options (like this one) for seniors come to fruition.

Monday, 22 October 2018

The Forever Bond

Childhood memories vivid but fleeting….
The warmth of her embrace.
The sound of her laughter.
Her full-body ‘giggle’.
The smell of her cooking,
mingled with cigarettes.
The hunch in her back.
The touch of her hands,
crippled with age.

Daily visits…..
watching soap operas;
eating soft-boiled eggs for breakfast,
and spumoni ice cream for dessert;
April Fool’s jokes;
stories from The National Enquirer;
and our annual viewing of the Wizard of Oz.
A constant through childhood.
A safe haven in her arms.

When did it begin?
She looked the same but really wasn't.
When was…..
the moment that her memories began to fade;
the hour when no one was familiar;
the day when she ceased to be the person I knew.
Was there fear? Anguish? Or passive acceptance?

If I knew then, what I know now…..
Would it have made a difference?
Would I, or she, have done things differently?
Or said things left unspoken?
An unconditional acceptance and love like no other,
gone over time and in an instant.

© Esther Goldstein, 2018