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Canada’s New Movement for Radical Rest Homes

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonFebruary 16, 2015

Canada’s newest movement in senior housing, radical rest homes, aims to help the growing generation of older adults age together with independence and dignity.

Canada's New Movement For Radical Rest Homes

With the latest report from Statistics Canada indicating that one in four citizens will be 65 or older by the year 2030, the subject of senior housing will become increasingly relevant for most families. A lot of those seniors are the same baby boomers that tackled societal issues and broke taboos in the “swingin‘ Sixties,” and this active, vital generation certainly does not intend to age conventionally, either. People are living longer than ever, and they want to continue to maintain a positive quality of life and a high degree of independence for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the traditional senior rest home model is one size that doesn’t necessarily fit all.

“Two hundred strangers living separately, promised independence and amenities but no one looks happy and your friends are miserable,” is how Montreal-based filmmaker Janet Torge characterizes the issue. Torge is the founder of Radical Rest Homes, a website and online community where like-minded adults can discuss and learn about alternative senior living arrangements.

What Is a Radical Rest Home?

Compared to what the CBC refers to as “the profit-driven, regimented seniors’ residences popping up all over the country,” radical rest homes promote both independence and interdependence.

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Inspired by successful models in Denmark, France and Japan, these are collectively organized senior housing arrangements in which the founders create the type of situation they want to live in — and help each other with day-to-day activities through a system of mutual support, rather than having hired staff. Like senior co-housing, with which it shares many commonalities, the idea truly is a radical one when you compare it to the type of senior living communities most of us are familiar with.

It might be an apartment building, or several individual houses that share a central communal space, but the core idea remains the same: “They are ‘run and managed by the people who live there,'” says Janet Torge. “Residents look after each other, and when help is needed resources come to you, you are not shipped out. And we die in our own beds, not in an institution.”

The Benefits of Alternative Senior Living

Torge first set out the idea of Radical Resthomes in her documentary for the CBC’s Sunday Edition. The response was so positive that she started her blog and website to provide a place for like-minded seniors and families to learn more about their housing options and share information. Since then, others have joined the charge for alternative senior housing, and Torge’s website hosts regional discussions for Canadians all across the country, from BC to the Yukon.

This type of housing has a bit of a buy-in — acquiring property where the community will live is an important prerequisite. But if you can lay out the cash, a radical rest home has benefits that you won’t find in traditional senior living. Residents can be selective about who they live with — and make their own rules. They don’t have to deal with the bureaucracy of a big corporation. Most importantly for overall senior well-being, the communal living situation means there will be others there to care for the sick, cook and clean together, or just keep one another company.

Alternative senior living arrangements may seem radical compared to what we currently have, but the idea of promoting an active and healthy lifestyle in our older adults (and, in the future, ourselves) shouldn’t be radical. These new concepts in senior housing not only help foster independence and ward off isolation, they promote aging in place while remaining in the community, and they encourage new, more positive attitudes toward aging and the elderly.

Do you live in an alternative senior housing arrangement, or are you considering forming a radical rest home? We want to hear from you. Share your experiences with us in the comments below.  

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Sarah Stevenson
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Sarah Stevenson
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