Co-housing students and seniors could become reality in Thorold

“Could provide health benefits while solving housing shortage”

By: Ludvig Drevfjall

Jane Sinclair from Simcoe county said the model of co-habitation of students and seniors could provide health benefits while solving housing- and affordability issues. Photo: Ludvig Drevfjall, Thorold News

Could co-housing students and seniors help shorten the wait for the 3000 elderly Thorold residents who are waiting to get a place to stay?

That idea perked the ears of city officials and developers at a forum discussing affordable housing options at the Thorold Seniors centre on Thursday.

The event brought together experience, ideas and community leaders to explore alternative avenues for different housing models for the increasingly large aging population.

The attendees heard from representatives of the Niagara On-the-lake-based Ina Grafton Gage Village, a corporation offering “life leases” of townhouses, identical to owning a property, but with no maintenance responsibilities and support systems, like programs and medical services readily available.

But with price tags of $130,000 dollars for a 50-year lease, the option might not be for everyone.

That is where Simcoe county’s exploring of European co-habitation models could provide some options for seniors.

The forum heard from Jane Sinclair, general manager of health- and emergency services in the county that work has begun to explore ways to offer affordable housing for students and seniors in a common development.

“Senior living is not a one size fits-all, which is why it is so important to have different alternatives”, she said.

Pointing out that student-dense Thorold sits between two big educational institutions, the model could prove to be highly successful in the town, she continued.

The benefit of having generations mix, and being able to utilize students to run programs, card tournaments and having agreed time where students spend time with the seniors could have a positive impact on health.

“We know that many seniors become more socially withdrawn as they age and that it has an affect on their health. But it is also important for younger generations to get a sense of appreciation for the elders in their community and learn values that they might not have today”, Sinclair said.

She said if council agrees to go ahead with the idea, Simcoe county could be seeing its first mixed-living development by 2022 or 2023.

Representatives from the city expressed being interested in exploring the idea further.

Councillor Fred Neale told Thorold News the forum gave renewed momentum in a time where only 2-300 new units intended for seniors are being constructed to help tackle the waitlist, over ten times the size of the new development.

“Affordable housing is on everybody’s lips right now. Developers have not been building as many rentals, but with the new models, opportunities could be arising now”, he said.

“We must form a committee to streamline what we need to get more affordable housing”.