Boomers won’t take old-style seniors’ homes lying down; they want to do things their way.
Janet Torge’s original scheme was this: assemble a group of middle-aged men and women, storm into a long-term care home and take it over. Stream through the doors. Kick out the staff. Occupy the rooms. Maybe she even imagined the elderly residents flipping over their trays of meatloaf, cheering.
Torge, then in her 40s, was fed up with the way she saw facilities for seniors organized. To her they were dreary, patronizing, dull. While she wasn’t nearly old enough to live in one herself, she wanted change before she got there. For her, the only solution was to get radical.
In the end, the documentary filmmaker chose something less extreme. Today, at 67, Torge is a head organizer of Radical Resthomes, a group she works at with Lorraine O’Donnell, a coordinator-researcher of the Quebec English-Speaking Communities Research Network. The two live in Montreal. Radical Resthomes is a group dedicated to helping seniors find and develop their own alternative living arrangements. It’s a question many will have to consider as the large boomer cohort ages: within the next two decades, it’s expected that nearly 23 percent of Canadians will be 65 or older.
For the past year or so, groups of 8 to 10 people have met across the city to brainstorm about their ideal living situation.“It’s a home in the country for some. Others want to buy a six-plex and each have an apartment. Others still want a big duplex that they’d turn into one apartment,” Torge says.
Either way, the idea is for seniors to design their own Radical Resthome—a living arrangement suited to their changing needs, where they can remain independent, comfortable and engaged, and where they take care of themselves, and each other.
Torge’s idea was sparked nearly 20 years ago, when her friends’ parents began living in long-term care facilities.
“We would go into these residences and it was like, ‘Oh my God, ’” she explains. “Everybody was just sitting around in wheelchairs. Then they would wheel them into a room and they would clap their hands to music and we just thought, ‘Really? This is how we’re going to end up?’”
At the time, many of those old enough for senior’s residences weren’t interested in talking to Torge. They were part of an older generation. They wanted to live in their own homes, and they accepted the conditions in long-term facilities if they ended up in one.
But as Torge and her fellow boomers aged, she found a larger group who were excited about her ideas, and started meeting to discuss and how they might afford to live independently after they stopped working. Boomers, Torge says, ARE used to the idea of communal living, and accustomed to speaking out when they AREN’T satisfied.
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