This guide to healthy aging in the community was originally put together by a small subcommittee of Senior Watch Old Ottawa South (SWOOS) and considerably enhanced by local community and organizational involvement — for whose input we are very grateful. It is designed to help you think about how to tackle the challenge of remaining in your home as you age. We point you to key resources on the web and to important organizations located in our general area.
We are not endorsing any of the organizations mentioned in the guide. We would appreciate your feedback on them and on the guide itself using the General Feedback Form. We have found that links can be fragile so please don’t hesitate to use the form to notify us if a link is broken.
There are lots of resources out there. Pour yourself a coffee, dive in and think about the changes you might need to ensure your ability to remain in your home as you get older.
Primary care is particularly important for older adults, who often have unique healthcare needs. As we age, we may experience multiple chronic conditions, complex medication regimens, and various physical and mental health disabilities. Primary care providers play a vital role in addressing these needs by offering regular check-ups, preventive care, chronic disease management, and coordination of care with specialists and other healthcare professionals.
Primary care services are provided by:
How to get primary care
The Ontario government directs you to Health Care Connect, a program offered by the Ontario Ministry of Health, which assists individuals in finding a family doctor or nurse practitioner in their area. The Health Care Connect program can be reached at 1-800-445-1822 or through their website (Find a doctor or nurse practitioner | ontario.ca). Their success rate appears to be low but at least your lack of attachment to primary care will be noted.
Another route that is more work but might be more successful, is to contact local clinics directly to inquire about their availability. After you have exhausted the potential for clinics in your neighbourhood that you know about, you can search for those in the vicinity by using the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) directory. The CPSO regulates the practice of medicine in Ontario. Note that there are instructions for using an advanced search which brings you to your geographic area. You will need to sift through the other specialists to locate your target, family medicine practitioners.
Interesting links and facts on finding primary care in Ontario
- Dr. Kamila Premji (August, 2023). referenced three primary care issues:
Working with the Ottawa Health Team, she estimates that in 2022, 7,701 seniors in central Ottawa don’t have a primary care provider. Primary Care Data Reports – INSPIRE-PHC
Dr. Premji added that the retirement of existing family doctors means that by 2025 the situation will be worse. Her work on this is at Trends in patient attachment to an aging primary care workforce: a population-based serial cross-sectional study in Ontario, Canada | medRxiv
They have seen a decline in interest in family medicine as a career among medical school graduates (reference: Canadian Resident Matching Service), so they are concerned that the incoming cohort of doctors will not be sufficient to absorb the expected retirements.
- Why it’s hard to find a family doctor — and what’s being done about it | CBC News March 2023
- Only a handful of family doctors in Ottawa accepting new patients | CBC News Nov 15, 2022
If you would like to provide feedback on this chapter or on the Guide to Healthy Aging in the Community in general, please use this General Feedback Form. Thank you!
As I age, what help might I need?
While it is impossible to guess the answer to that question, it may be helpful to know about the type of help that is available and the terminology that describes it. A simple distinction is made between home care and community support services, with any medical support deemed “home care” and other services being “community support.”
- For instance, many of us already have arrangements for cleaning, yard maintenance and snow removal.
- As we move into our 60s and 70s we may no longer want to prepare all our meals. All these services can be seen as “community support.”
- If we have medical procedures requiring hospitalization, when we get out of hospital, we may need support from a nurse or physiotherapist.
- As we become less mobile, we may need help with personal care, like bathing, dressing, medication management, etc. These are all “home care.”
If you are mobile and have no serious health issues, getting subsidized home care may be difficult. The reality is that resources are in short supply and even older adults in need frequently cannot get enough help through government agencies.
How can I access home care services?
If you do have health issues, the availability of services will depend in large part on the results of an assessment. That assessment can be done by one of several agencies:
If you have a primary care provider, talk to them about contacting HCCSS Home Care (HCCSS). This organization coordinates with sources of nursing care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dieticians, social workers, etc. They will
- Check if you qualify for government funded services
- Arrange a home visit for assessment
- Contract with service providers
If you do not have a doctor or primary care provider, make it your top priority to get one as soon as possible. But in the meantime you can contact HCCSS yourself. Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS)
The next steps will be as above: an assessment by a care coordinator who will meet you where you are living and help determine the services and support you need. This could include:
- Personal care — support with bathing, dressing, medications, etc.
- Social work — help for caregivers to cope and manage stress
- Home healthcare supplies – dressings, walking aids, braces, cushions
The central communities of Ottawa receive many community support services from Glebe Centre » Abbotsford Community Programs, or the South East Ottawa Community Health Centre (SEOCHC). Their booklet on Community Support Services provides the detail of what is offered from this Community Health Centre.
In parts of the city beyond the area covered by Abbotsford House or SEOCHC, the Coalitionottawa.ca can help you find a community health centre and other organizations providing community support services in your area.
Most community health centres offer free in-home services to at-risk older adults over 65+. The goal is to help connect isolated and/or vulnerable older adults living at home to the resources they need. A related service provided by the Ontario government is called Primary Care Outreach. This link will provide some information on whether or not you are eligible (eligibility criteria). It will require a lot of patience to get enough information to understand this service. If you qualify, it means that a nurse and community health worker will visit you once a month to assess your health needs and make referrals to the services you need.
If you cannot afford the cost for these services due to low income, you can apply to the City of Ottawa for financial assistance based on assessed income. Click here for more information.
If you are in hospital, an assessment will usually be done before you leave, to help people returning home to support their recovery from an illness or accident. Convalescent care after hospitalization may also be contracted with several nearby retirement facilities [detailed in our housing section], although at a cost.
Household help/Supportive services
As we get older and less physically able, we may feel the need for household help. Unfortunately, this is an area in which few are eligible for government subsidies (sometimes determined by income), but you can contact local agencies yourself and arrange for personal support workers or for cleaning, laundry, cooking, yard work, etc. Costs will vary. Abbotsford House, a Seniors Active Living Centre, also provides community support services and South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre can help with these services. As can most of the community health centres. Or most of the companies listed on the HCCSS site.
Volunteers also oﬀer daily telephone calls or periodic visits in an older adult’s home to those at risk of isolation. HCCSS also offers programs for clients who would benefit from a small group supportive atmosphere.
If you are not sure where you can get services, a wonderful resource for Ontario residents is 211 Ontario. 211 is a helpline that easily connects people to social services, programs and community support that they need.’ Calling 311 a line connects you with city services of all types.
Medical alert devices and fall detectors
These can be particularly useful for someone living alone. They are wearable devices (such as a pendant or bracelet) that the user can activate in case of an emergency. When activated, the device sends a signal to a monitoring centre, which then contacts emergency responders or the user’s designated emergency contacts. These alert systems may include fall detection, which can automatically alert the monitoring centre if the user falls and is unable to press the alert button. This link provides one review of what’s available, but a Google search will yield more reviews.
And then there are meals …
Getting to and from the grocery store is not always easy. In our area, three large stores offer online delivery service for groceries (there is a charge):
In Old Ottawa South, Cedars (613-288-2797) will also deliver to older adults (during the week only) for a small charge.
Some of us still enjoy cooking but many find it tiresome, particularly if they are living alone. Happily, there are several local meal providers who will deliver to your home. Costs vary. Among those endorsed by Public Health are:
This list is far from exhaustive, as new services appear. It is worth checking online to see “meal service delivery for older adults.” As well, the City of Ottawa has a page on Meal Programs that is well maintained: Meal Programs for Older Adults – Ottawa Public Health.
Another form of meal delivery pre-packages ingredients for meals in “kits” with instructions on how to prepare specific recipes. Among popular suppliers are:
These somewhat expensive supplies come in boxes or bags of mostly raw ingredients with recipe cards and nutritional information, typically feeding 2 or 4 people. They are delivered and left at your doorstep and include ice packs to keep ingredients fresh. Again, there are other suppliers, all of whom are online. Just Google “meal kit delivery.”
As well, many local grocery stores sell prepared foods. In this area you can find some at Metro and Whole Foods in the Glebe, Cedars in OOS, Riley’s Independent at Billings Bridge and Farm Boy at Blue Heron mall. All around the city, there is food from which to choose.
Interesting articles and references
Mental Health In Later Life This is a website with mental health resources: Evidence Exchange Network (EENet) is part of the Knowledge Mobilization portfolio in the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) Provincial System Support Program (PSSP). EENet moves evidence to action to improve programming and inform policy change.
If you would like to provide feedback on this chapter or on the Guide to Healthy Aging in the Community in general, please use this General Feedback Form. Thank you!
Caregivers make the world go ‘round. They are a lifeline for aging friends and family. Caregivers help with basic personal activities, assist with household chores, aid with tasks related to personal hygiene, and provide companionship. They stand by for emergencies and they often manage the contacts with the service system. But it isn’t easy and it is mostly unpaid work that is disproportionately placed on women.
Caregiver stress is of increased concern due to the growing number of older adults in the community combined with inadequate home care services and coordination. Caregivers get stressed, tired and anxious. If you think you might be experiencing caregiver stress or burnout, here are some signs to look out for.
If you do find yourself experiencing any of those signs, there are some local resources that can help. The Ontario Caregiver Organization has a particularly rich assortment of information on their website: helplines, webinars, peer support, counselling and health information, including resources for Indigenous, Black and LGBTQIA+ communities. Often helpful, as well, are the online offerings of disease-specific organizations like the Dementia Society or Parkinson Society Ottawa.
What is respite care?
Respite care is a break for the caregiver, which is why it is often referred to as “temporary caregiver relief.” It can be an adult day program for the care recipient at a local facility or a short-term stay at a retirement home. Some retirement homes offer designated “safe” areas for patients with memory loss. Others advertise having “healthy mind programs,”and “pet and music therapy.”
You can apply for respite care through HCCSS (and this should be your first effort) or you can privately arrange a convalescent or respite care stay with an individual retirement home.
Call HCCSS at 1-800-538-0520
It is probably wise to ask for a case manager with HCCSS to assess the needs of your care recipient because even with non-acceptance to the program, you are likely to be provided with information on other options and agencies.There are an endless number of retirement homes in the city offering different options and prices. Even though it is costly, if you can afford it, it does give a caregiver a well-deserved break or vacation.
Community resources for support/training/respite care
Not-for-profit community-based services can help as well. For the caregiver, there are some support services at Glebe Centre » Abbotsford Community Programs. They offer a Caregiver’s Club, which meets twice a week and is volunteer-run. Caregivers need to register (there is a waiting list). An Adult Day program is offered to clients with a diagnosis of memory/cognitive loss. It offers not only an opportunity for the client to engage in physical/social and memory stimulation but also provides respite to the caregiver. There is a small cost for these programs.
A similar service is offered at South East Ottawa CHC Community Support Services | SEOCHC
Call Abbotsford House at 613-230-5730
South East Ottawa CHC at 613-737-5115
If you are outside of either catchment area you can find your local community support at Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa.
There are caregiver benefits available and outlined on this federal government website. You are encouraged to apply for these as soon as possible. There is a federal tax credit as well, explained on the Canada Revenue Agency site.
In Ontario, if your employment is covered by the Employment Standards Act, you are allowed unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 28 weeks in a 52-week period to care for certain family members who have a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks. More information here.
If you would like to provide feedback on this chapter or on the Guide to Healthy Aging in the Community in general, please use this General Feedback Form. Thank you!
Planning ahead as you reach your retirement years allows you to have control and choice when faced with obstacles to living in your current home.
Should I stay or move?
The Council on Aging of Ottawa (CoA) has excellent materials that individuals can consider when deciding whether or not to move. Housing Options in Ottawa: A Guide for Older Adults is a downloadable PDF manual that was updated in 2021. This Guide is clear and concise, with a section “Should I stay or Should I Move?” The Guide’s Appendix A “Key Information Sites” provides a number of organizations (including phone numbers and websites) that are involved with housing that you may find useful. The Guide’s “Age-Friendly Housing Search Checklist” includes these topics:
Other considerations when looking into housing options include:
- Appropriateness (this is personal preference – i.e., independent or residential living, languages spoken, familiarity of neighbourhood etc.)
- Consider your must-haves
- For some, it would be allowing pets, for example.
If I decide to stay in my current residence, what are my options?
If staying where you currently live is your first choice it is wise to have your home environment checked for safety and accessibility, recognizing that your health and mobility will decline. An occupational therapist (OT) can do this assessment; you can find an OT using this website. From their dropdown list consider selecting “home assessments and modifications” and “universal & inclusive design.”
Once again, the Council on Aging’s Housing Guide offers guidance on home safety. On page 34 of the CoA Housing Guide there are useful renovation suggestions such as ramps, lowering cupboards, and installing smart technology, etc. The link to a list of eligible medical expenses that can be claimed as a tax deduction is also included on this page.
If more extensive renovation is required, you may qualify for the Ontario Renovates Program.
The Government of Canada also offers 12 Steps to Stair Safety at Home.
If you want to stay in your home but are concerned about expenses or support as you age, there are a couple of options. If you have the space and financial resources, you could build a coach house or granny flat on the same residential property for family members to live in. The City of Ottawa allows these housing units to be built for this purpose.
Another option could be to share your home with friends or unrelated people. Search for “home-sharing and matching” in the CoA Housing Guide. In some cases, intergenerational home sharing may be appropriate. This option is becoming increasingly popular with students who have difficulty finding affordable housing and it provides income and companionship to the older adult. A program – matching older adults and students – is under development in Ottawa (see Hygge Home Sharing in CoA Appendix B of the CoA Housing Guide). Another option might be Coliving.com or (for women only) comfortable coliving.ca
If I decide to move, what are my options?
Our goal in this guide is to narrow down your search. If you type into a search bar “Older adult (or seniors) housing in my neighborhood” the list will be long, starting with the paid ads first. It is hard to navigate, so we are trying to provide some suggestions for you in the sections below.
If you decide to move and continue to live independently, once again you can refer to the CoA Housing Guide. It offers several housing options to choose from including the following:
- smaller homes or bungalows
- co-operative housing
Some of the above may be adult lifestyle communities with management companies taking care of grounds and maintenance
The Champlain Healthline website has a section for Seniors’ Apartments. Seniors’ apartments are generally for seniors, 55 years and over, who are able to live independently. Most of the apartments listed provide rent-geared-to-income units in addition to market rates. On this webpage, you can enter your postal code that then lists the apartments in order of the distance from your postal code.
If you own your home the CoA Housing Guide offers options to consider when selling your home. As well, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers a variety of publications about buying and selling a property.
Real Estate companies often have agents who have expertise in senior’s needs, and what is available to rent or buy.
There are services that help with moving, storing, etc. Search online under “downsize Ottawa” and compare prices for the services.
You may decide to live residentially
If you are no longer able to live in your current place, you may need toconsider options for residential living: Retirement Homes, Residential Services Homes (Domiciliary Hostels), Long-Term Care Homes.
The CoA Housing Guide has a brief and informative overview of Retirement homes and Long term care homes starting on page 37.
Retirement homes are private sector businesses; they do not receive public funding. These homes provide rental accommodation with care and services for older adults who can live independently with minimal to moderate support and are able to fund this lifestyle on their own.
Retirement homes are regulated by the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 (RHA) and are licensed and inspected by the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA). Each retirement home can offer up to thirteen care services, including but not limited to assistance with dressing, assistance with personal hygiene, medication management, and provision of a meal.
The Ontario Retirement Communities Association (ORCA) has been the voice of Ontario’s retirement homes since 1977 and is committed to setting a standard for operational excellence in the sector. Membership in ORCA by retirement homes is voluntary; membership also includes many commercial partners who provide essential products and services to retirement communities throughout the province.
The Champlain Healthline website has a section for Retirement Homes in the region. On this webpage, one can input a postal code and a list of retirement homes appears along with the distance from that postal code that can help narrow the focus of potential homes. You need to return to the first page where the phone numbers are listed. There is also a filter to search for “apartments with support” and “older adult apartments.”
For-profit retirement residences
We have listed some local large retirement residences :
You may also find them useful for convalescent or respite care. Many require a minimum stay of two weeks and are subject to availability.
Long-term care homes
Long-term care homes are for people with significant health challenges which can include cognitive impairment who need 24-hour access to nursing care and supervision. While homes are publicly funded by the government to provide primary health care and nursing care, support with the activities of daily living, a variety of therapies and activities, and special diets, residents also pay a fee for their accommodation. These fees are affordable within the scope of most universal government pension plans.
The Champlain Healthline webpage has a section for Long-term Care Homes in Ottawa. Similar to Retirement Homes, one can input a postal code and a list of retirement homes appears along with the distance from the postal code that can help narrow the focus of potential homes. To find the phone numbers, go back to the previous page. Admission to, and information about long-term care homes, is provided by Home and Community Care Support Services as well as businesses offering assistance to find accommodation.
Long-term care (LTC) homes in Canada are categorized as either public or private.
- Ownership of publicly funded LTC homes offering 24-hour nursing care can be public or private.
- Privately owned LTC homes can be subdivided into for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.
Do your research to see which type of LTC home best suits your needs. For instance, for-profit LTC homes are typically investor-owned or owned by private equity firms and chain-operated. According to a study published in the Canadian Journal on Aging, for-profit homes have lower staffing levels compared to not-for-profit and government-owned (i.e., municipal) facilities. The study also found that in Ontario, government-operated facilities provide more hours of direct patient care per resident than for-profit facilities.
Innovative and emerging housing options
Appendix B of the CoA Housing Guide provides examples of innovative and emerging housing options in Ottawa, such as non-profit affordable housing, partnerships with churches, cohousing, home sharing, and partnerships with the private sector (see NORCs below).
Naturally occurring retirement communities (NORC)
A recent development in Canada, and anywhere with a similar demographic, is that condos and apartments often have an older adult population between 30%-60%. A term that has been coined in Canada to describe these dwellings is Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC). This form of housing is led by residents and seeks their input to the use and management of the shared space and supportive service program (SSP) that can be publicly funded and additional private programs and services not covered by the governments. It also has shared space that is used for a multitude of purposes. In Ontario the main examples of successful NORC-SSPs (supportive service programs such as health, social and recreational activities) are through a model called OASIS developed by Queen’s University.
“The purpose of the program is to provide, through collaboration with public sector, not-for-profit, and private sector organizations, a supportive living program for older adults that builds community among members in the setting of an existing private sector apartment or condo building, thus preventing social isolation, facilitating better nutrition and promoting physical fitness.”
In December 2022, the Council on Aging of Ottawa announced they have partnered with Ottawa Neighbourhood Study (ONS) to create an interactive map (Ottawa NORC finder) that identifies Ottawa NORCs where older adults (65+) are living in Ottawa. These include apartments, co-ops, condos, and housing for older adults as well as neighborhood blocks.
Ottawa NORC locations
There are a number of existing condos and apartments in the neighborhood that are, or will be, more than 30% adults over 65 — these represent potential NORCs. Local examples, both completed and under development include Greystone Village, the two towers envisioned at Bank and Riverside and Stone Abbey, the development attached to Southminster Church. We encourage residents who would like to optimize their living experience in the community to look into adoption of supportive services programs. In order to do so you could refer to the NORC Ambassadors program or to OASIS.
Abbeyfield model of houses
- Self-furnished bed-sitting rooms with a private bath. Residents bring their own furnishings to create unique private spaces within Abbeyfield Ottawa
- Affordable and includes two meals daily, parking, high speed WiFi and the use of laundry facilities. Residents are responsible for telephone and cable services.
- Currently charges less than the monthly price of for-profit retirement establishments in the area.
A new Abbeyfield not for profit organization, Abbeyfield Riverside, is currently exploring the potential to create an Abbeyfield-model residence on the second or third floor of a new rental building to be constructed on the west side of Bank Street at Riverside. Final decisions have not been made at time of printing, so other locations might also be considered.
Exploring other innovative housing options
Are you interested in exploring other housing options for older adults in central Ottawa? If so, go to the Housing Feedback Form and add your contact information. We will determine the level of interest and perhaps create a group for this activity.
Businesses offering assistance to find accommodation
Below are some links that you may find helpful in finding accommodation, however they are not intended to be a complete list of available resources. We provide quotes from the sites to give you some idea of their focus.
- Dignified Living
“Dignified.ca is Canada’s #1 Top Rated Bilingual Older Adult Care Directory”
- Solva Senior Living
“Ottawa’s first and only older adult Housing Resource Centre! Explore all the options and offerings for older adult living and eldercare in Ottawa. We’ll help you navigate more than 100 retirement homes to narrow down which ones match your unique needs, preferences, personality and budget.”
- Visavie – Retirement Home Advisor
“To help you find the right retirement home, we offer free services to accompany you during your search for older adults living in Ottawa and the surrounding region.”
- Tea & Toast – Ottawa
“Tea & Toast helps families plan, research, and strategize solutions when making a life transition to living in a retirement home or long-term care home.”
- Long-term Care Homes: Differences by Profit Status and Chain Ownership
- Quebec announces 5 private long-term care homes to get public funding CTV News May 22, 2023
The latest in technology is not only for the young! By embracing the tools of a digital age, older adults can lead safer, healthier, and more independent lives.
For an overview of some of the technologies being developed in Canada consult AGE-WELL.
For all of the following suggestions we have made you are still encouraged to do your own research and discuss your needs with your family and caregivers.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS): These systems typically consist of a wearable pendant or wristband with a button to press during emergencies. Upon pressing the button, the device connects to a monitoring centre that dispatches help or contacts designated individuals.
As you shop for a medical alert system consider using the following questions that will help you find one that meets your requirements with respect to functionality and cost.
- Do you need an in-home device or a mobile device?
- Does a medical alert system require a contract? If so, how long before it expires?
- Who gets called when you press the emergency button?
- Can you do without a landline?
- Should you always wear a help button? What forms can it take?
- Is the call centre reliable?
- Do medical alert systems include fall detection?
- How much does a medical alert system cost?
The Best Canadian Medical Alert Systems of 2023 offers a list of 10 possible response systems.
Smart Home Technology: Smart home technology can help older adults maintain their independence and safety by automating certain tasks and providing assistance with daily activities. For example, smart home devices can adjust lighting and temperature settings, lock doors, and monitor for falls or other emergencies. Examples of smart home devices include Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Google Nest.
Although a USA publication, this May 2023 article on Smart Home Upgrades for Aging in Place in Forbes Health provides an overview of the many smart home technology applications that can be considered.
Medication Reminders: Use smartphone apps such as Medisafe or MyTherapy to set medication reminders. These apps send alerts, track medication schedules, and dosage information to ensure timely intake. Some important considerations are where the data (your meds list and dosage frequency, etc) is stored, as well as who else can have access to these reminders (family members, caregivers).
Health and Fitness
Wearable Devices: Wearable devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches can help track physical activity, monitor heart rate and sleep patterns, and set reminders to take medications or engage in healthy behaviours. These devices can also provide motivation and encouragement to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Examples of wearable devices include the Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Garmin.
Exercise Apps: Download Canadian fitness apps like MyFitnessPal or Seven Minute Workout to access personalized exercise routines. These apps offer workout videos, tracking tools, and progress metrics to help you maintain an active lifestyle.
Phone Apps: many cellphones have proprietary apps to monitor aspects of your daily activity.
Virtual Exercise Classes: Join online fitness platforms like SilverSneakers, YMCA Canada Virtual Programs or Abbotsford House. These platforms provide live or on-demand exercise classes tailored to older adults’ needs, promoting strength and flexibility. For those without computers, Seniors Centre Without Walls offers exercise that can be telephone based (613-236-0428 extension 2323).
Ontario Telehealth: Health 811 (with various forms: online chat, web links, call 811) allows older adults to access healthcare services remotely, reducing the need to travel to a doctor’s office or hospital. This can be especially helpful for older adults with mobility or transportation challenges. Telehealth services can include virtual doctor’s appointments, remote monitoring of vital signs, and online support groups.
Social Media: Social media (e.g.Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) can help you to stay connected with friends and family, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. It can also provide a platform for sharing information about health and wellness, and for finding support groups and resources.If you are finding such technology daunting, consult Connected Canadians.
Games: Video games can be a fun way to stay active and maintain cognitive function. Games that require physical activity, like Wii Sports or Dance Dance Revolution, can help older adults improve balance and coordination. Games that require strategic thinking, like chess, cribbage or crossword puzzles, can help older adults maintain cognitive function and memory.
A new development in central Ottawa, the Seniors Health Innovations Hub (SHIH) is applying for grants in collaboration with Bruyère Research Institute and Carleton University to develop a Wellness App. There are other initiatives underway as well. Are you interested in learning about and/or participating in testing new products that assist with healthy aging in place (sensors, alarms, communications devices, wellness apps, etc)? If so, go to the Technology Feedback Form and add your contact information and indicate your interest in technology.
It’s important to note that while technology can be a helpful tool to maintain health and independence, it’s not a substitute for human interaction and support. An on-line dance class can be a good idea, but one that you attend with a friend is more fun!
Slow down cognitive decline
As you age, it is normal for changes to occur in all parts of your body, including your brain. However, there are ways to slow cognitive aging.
The World Health Organization suggests 8 ways to protect yourself against cognitive decline:
- Stay physically active
- Eat healthily
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
- Get regular check-ups with your doctor
- Write down everyday tasks and appointments to help you remember important things
- Keep up your hobbies and do things that you enjoy
- Try new ways to keep your mind active
- Spend time with friends and family and engage in community life
While prevention is important, you should also be aware of the signs of cognitive decline. These may warrant an appointment with your primary care provider:
- Forgetting things or recent events
- Losing or misplacing things
- Getting lost when walking or driving
- Being confused, even in familiar places
- Losing track of time
- Difficulties solving problems or making decisions
- Problems following conversations or trouble finding words
- Difficulties performing familiar tasks
- Misjudging distances to objects visually
Please note: While we all experience one (or a few) of these signs from time to time, it is important to know what is your “normal” and which of these signs are new occurrences for you. If you have any concern at all, speak to your primary care provider.
Something as simple as tripping on your rug can have awful consequences to your health and can be the start of long-term disability. For this reason, it is important that you take preventative measures to protect yourself from falls.
How you can protect yourself from falls:
- Talk to your healthcare provider about getting enough calcium and vitamin D
- Stay physically active
- Quit smoking and avoid alcohol use
- Make sure your shoes fit properly; consider ‘boot grips’ in winter
- Talk to your doctor about osteoporosis.
There are several Youtube videos on how to get up after a fall. Worth a look before it happens.
How your environment can protect you from falls:
- Make sure your stairs are well lit
- Fix any loose steps
- Ensure there is a handrail next to your stairs and that it extends all the way to the last step
- Ensure that rugs are firmly secured
- Install a seat and grab bar in your shower.
If you do experience a fall, do not try to move until you know with certainty that you are alright. Call out for help if you are not alone at home. If you have an emergency device or telephone on hand, use it to call for help. If you do not have a telephone on you, slide yourself towards one or to a place where you can be heard when calling out for help. Use objects in your surroundings to make noise and attract attention.
Consider looking into auto-alert devices that can help you in the event of a fall. Find more information about these devices in our Technology chapter.
Elder abuse is a difficult topic that most of us seek to avoid. However, it is extremely common and can happen at the hands of a care partner or someone you trust. Learn what to look out for so that you can better protect yourself.
Elder abuse has five components.
- Physical violence towards you by way of hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, and burning or other intentional infliction of bodily harm
- Psychological or emotional abuse in which you experience imposed distress or fear by way of humiliation or disrespect, verbal and non-verbal threats, harassment, and isolation
- Sexual violence in which you are the recipient of forced or unwanted sexual acts or harassment
- Financial abuse, which is defined as monetary exploitation through extortion of your will, investment fraud, or other forms of exploitation of your money, benefits, belongings, property, or assets
- Medical abuse, otherwise considered as neglect, is a component of elder abuse in which necessary medications are withheld, you are improperly bathed or changed, or otherwise prevented from meeting your basic needs of care.
For more information visit the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the Government of Canada site on financial abuse.
If you find yourself in danger, call the Seniors 24/7 Safety Line at 1-866-299-1011 or 911. Another service that is available to all Ontarians that need social support is 211: 211 Ontario.
Fraud and scam prevention
Unfortunately, older adults are the targets of many scams and fraud attempts. For this reason, it is important that you know how to protect yourself.
- Beware of unsolicited calls, emails and texts requesting payment and/or offering medical advice, financial relief, or government assistance and compensation.
- Never respond or click on suspicious links and attachments.
- Never give out your personal or financial details.
- Beware of phone calls and emails offering:
- Miracle cures, herbal remedies, vaccinations and faster testing
- Duct cleaning services or other maintenance-related services
- Deals offered by pharmaceutical companies
- Free products for a donation.
- Install anti-virus software on your computer (ex. McAfee or Norton AntiVirus).
Visit this website from the RCMP where they detail current scams to be aware of.
If you want to report a scam, you can do so at this site: Identify a scam or fraud:Ontario
If you would like to provide feedback on this chapter or on the Guide to Healthy Aging in the Community in general, please use this General Feedback Form. Thank you!
Maintaining strong social connections is beneficial to everyone. Research consistently highlights the positive impact of social engagement on physical, mental, and emotional health, emphasizing the importance of fostering social connections. For older adults, maintaining networks may become more challenging with retirement, death of family and friends and increasing immobility.
Physical health benefits
Engaging in social activities often encourages individuals to remain active, leading to enhanced mobility and reduced risks of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and obesity. Moreover, social support systems provide opportunities for encouragement and motivation in adopting healthy lifestyle choices, including regular exercise and balanced nutrition. Seniors: stay healthy and active | ontario.ca
Mental and Emotional Health Benefits: Loneliness and social isolation are known to negatively impact mental and emotional health. In contrast, active social engagement fosters cognitive stimulation and emotional well-being. Studies demonstrate that social connections provide emotional support, reducing the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
Canadian Mental Health Association https://cmha.ca/
Opportunities for social connections in Ottawa
Community Centres: The City of Ottawa operates several community centres. These centres provide opportunities for social interaction, exercise classes, art workshops, and social clubs. Recreation and cultural facilities | City of Ottawa
Associations: Organizations like The Council on Aging of Ottawa provide and promote connection activities for older adults, including social outings, group discussions, and educational workshops.
An interesting intergenerational development that is happening in Old Ottawa South is the partnering of Andrew Fleck daycare at Trinity Anglican Church and the Council on Aging. For more information about this interesting opportunity for a mutually beneficial intergenerational exchange see Intergenerational Programming │ Andrew Fleck Children’s Services
Other associations that may be more representative of your background and values are:
- Ottawa Senior Pride Network
- Ottawa Deaf Health Care Team
- Muslim Family Services of Ottawa
- Wabano, an Indigenous health and cultural centre
- Jewish Family Services, Counselling Group
Volunteer Opportunities: Engaging in volunteer work allows older adults to connect with their community, make new friends, and contribute to society. Organizations like Volunteer Ottawa can help match individuals with volunteer opportunities based on their interests and skills.
If you are looking for something close by, Abbotsford House always needs help.
Older Adult Recreation and Fitness Centres: Facilities like Abbotsford House provide exercise classes, card games, crafts, and social events for older adults to stay physically active while fostering social connections.
Support Groups: Support groups, such as caregiver support groups or specific health condition-focused groups, offer older adults a platform to connect with others facing similar challenges. Organizations like the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County provide support groups and educational resources. A not-for-profit group runs “A Friendly Voice” for older adults who want to chat, 8 am to 10 pm seven days a week (613-692-9992).
As we age, our nutritional needs change, making it crucial for older adults to pay special attention to their dietary habits. A well-balanced diet is essential for maintaining good health, managing chronic conditions, and promoting overall well-being.
Consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods is vital. Include the following in your diet:
- Fruits and vegetables: Aim for at least 7-10 servings per day. They provide essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants.
- Whole grains: Opt for whole grain bread, cereals, rice, and pasta. These are high in fibre, which aids digestion and promotes heart health.
- Lean proteins: Incorporate lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and legumes into your meals. Protein helps maintain muscle mass and supports tissue repair.
- Dairy or alternatives: Consume low-fat milk, yogurt, or fortified plant-based milk for calcium and vitamin D.
- Healthy fats: Include sources like nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil. These provide essential fatty acids for brain health and overall well-being.
Staying hydrated is vital for older adults, as the sense of thirst diminishes with age. Aim for at least 8 cups (2 litres) of fluids per day. Limit caffeinated and sugary drinks, as they can dehydrate you.
Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for older adults to prevent chronic diseases. Be mindful of portion sizes and use smaller plates to control your intake. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein, and one-quarter with whole grains.
Managing chronic conditions
Many older adults deal with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Here are some tips to manage these conditions through nutrition:
- Consult a registered dietitian or healthcare provider for personalized dietary recommendations.
- Limit sodium intake to manage hypertension. Choose low-sodium options and avoid processed foods.
While it’s best to obtain nutrients from whole foods, some older adults may require supplements to meet their nutritional needs. Consult your healthcare provider to determine if you need supplements like vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B12 or omega-3 fatty acids.
The Healthy Eating Online Resources for Older Adults – Ottawa Public Health covers not only links to nutrition but also links to general topics such as fall prevention, smoking cessation and other health related issues for older adults.
- Canada’s Food Guide: www.canada.ca/foodguide
- Dietitians of Canada: www.dietitians.ca
- Government of Canada – Nutrition and Healthy Eating – Canada.ca
- Diet & Nutrition Tips for Seniors and their Caregivers – Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
- Food to Help Counter Cognitive Decline, Including the Most Important Vitamin for Brain Health as We Age – Everything Zoomer June 2023
- Some vegetables may be healthier when cooked (various links)
- Dirty dozen / clean 15
- Environmental Working Group EWG;
The Environmental Working Group is an American activist group that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants, and corporate accountability. EWG is a nonprofit organization.
- 2023 list: https://www.elizabethrider.com/dirty-dozen-clean-15/
- Environmental Working Group EWG;
As we age, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle becomes increasingly important. Regular exercise and fitness activities can improve overall well-being, increase strength and flexibility, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Health Canada guidelines for older adults reflect the advice below.
Consult with a healthcare professional
Before embarking on any new fitness program, older adults should consult with their healthcare provider. They can assess individual health conditions, provide personalized recommendations, and ensure that exercise routines are safe and appropriate.
Incorporate aerobic exercises
Engaging in regular aerobic exercises helps improve cardiovascular health, stamina, and mood. Activities such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling, or dancing are great options. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, as recommended by the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (see page 5 for 65 +)
Including strength training exercises in a fitness routine is essential for older adults to maintain muscle strength and prevent age-related muscle loss. Activities like lifting weights, using resistance bands, or performing bodyweight exercises can be beneficial. Include strength training exercises at least twice a week.
Flexibility and balance exercises
A focus on flexibility and balance helps to prevent falls and maintain mobility. Activities like yoga, tai chi, or stretching exercises can enhance flexibility and promote stability. Canadian organizations like the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging provide strength training and programs specifically designed for older adults that can be done at home.
Engage in social fitness activities
Participating in group fitness classes or joining community organizations can be both fun and motivating. Local community centres, older adult centres, or recreation centres often offer specialized fitness programs tailored to the needs of older adults.
Check out these offerings in our central Ottawa communities.
Proper hydration is vital for older adults during exercise. The natural aging process weakens the body’s ability to signal it does not have enough fluid. Remember to drink water before, during, and after physical activity even if you do not feel thirsty.
Stay active throughout the day
Apart from scheduled exercise sessions, it is wise for all ages to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. Simple activities like gardening, walking the dog, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can contribute to overall fitness levels.
Life changes when you no longer drive or have less mobility, but there are options out there. Aside from buses and the obvious taxis, (which really are cheaper than keeping a car), there are services like Uber and Lyft.
The reality is that Ottawa has a long winter of ice and snow, with increasing thaw cycles making getting around and maintaining social activities an ever-increasing challenge. The Council on Aging’s Snow Moles are volunteers who report on what it is like to walk outside on a winter day.
If you are able to do so, it is a very good idea to walk! You can combine exercise, recreation and independence while getting where you need to go. Particularly during the summer, walk when you can or bike (Ottawa does have good bike paths). It is both efficient and fun. Public transportation in Ottawa is not perfect but it does have some virtues: OC Transpo buses and the O-Train are fully accessible. All stops are announced automatically.
Passengers with disabilities should connect with Para Transpo. It includes a taxi coupon program that allows customers to take taxis at 55% of the fare. Visit: My Para-transpo to learn more. Fill out the Para Transpo application form.
Abbotsford House and SEOCHC provide volunteer drivers to take older adults and disabled adults to essential medical appointments. (A fee may apply.)
There are also private services, of which a few are:
- Bayport Senior Transportation Services 613-794-2777
- Seniors Solution 613-592-1250 (Will accompany to medical appointments and take notes if needed.)
- Driving Miss Daisy 613-796-2285
- Wheels for the Wise 613-709-9473
Questions you may be asking yourself are how to ensure that you don’t outlive your money, and whether you have someone you can count on to manage your financial affairs if you are not able to. Have you thought about the kinds of supports and services you may need to purchase as you age (e.g., cleaning, shopping, yard maintenance, personal care support)?
Good management of your finances and having enough money are essential elements of being able to age well at home. It is important to start thinking about managing your finances sooner rather than later. Find someone you can trust to talk to about this and who will help you put a plan in place.
As part of its Smart Aging Programme the Council on Aging runs a workshop on Addressing Common Financial Concerns. We recommend that you visit their website to view the various documents and links there and sign up for the workshop as a starting point in addressing this important issue.
Everyone should have:
- A will (i.e., a document detailing what you would like to happen to your estate and assets when you die)
- Powers of Attorney (POA) for property and personal care (i.e., a legal document that gives someone the authority to manage your affairs on your behalf).
For both the will and powers of attorney you can either have a lawyer do this for you or you can prepare the documents yourself using forms that are available online. To create an information package for your executor, family members or power of attorney for property, click here.
Nobody pretends that this is easy. But an essential first step is to talk to your family (even if they – and this often happens – resist). Reading through the following may be of help:
- Advance Care Planning Ontario can help you prepare for end-of-life conversations with loved ones. They also offer a workbook to help you better understand the role of a Power of Attorney, as well as the concept of informed consent and substitute decision-making.
- Dying With Dignity Canada has an advance care planning kit which can help you think about your wishes for health care and treatment at the end of life.
- Compassionate Ottawa has extensive material on advance planning.
An important financial support as you become less able to care for yourself is the federal Disability Tax Credit managed through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Your primary care provider or another doctor has to complete this form and submit it online to CRA. Start with a full medical assessment either by your GP, an Occupational Therapist or a specialist. You can also complete a draft of the form for the doctor’s approval and focus on why you need additional support such as additional housekeeping, help with bathing or palliative care. The CRA rejects or approves the request or may ask for further details. Allowable expenses include personal support worker (PSW) services for in-home care, bus or taxi expenses, costs of wheelchairs, and many other expenses.
On the CRA form there is a place for deductible expenses involving costs of paid services and equipment. Be sure to keep all receipts accumulated over the year in one place to support your claim for these deductions. You may have to show disability in two categories, for example mobility and hearing, to indicate that in an emergency you would not be able to adequately look after yourself or that you have a considerable risk of falls. As you get older, if you need help with your taxes, it is usually available in your community health centre (CCHC, SEOCHC, etc.) and from older adults’ centres, as well.
If you are behind on your electricity or natural gas bill and risk having your service disconnected, you can seek emergency financial help through the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).
Low-income older adults may be eligible for a full or partial deferral of annual property taxes. The City of Ottawa offers a water utility deferral program and also has the ability to offer you a reduced interest rate on property taxes. More information can be found here.
The federal government site offers information and resources for older adults on a wide range of subjects, including “Managing your Money.”
Palliative care is designed to improve the quality of life for patients faced with life-limiting illness and also the lives of their families. It focuses primarily on comfort and pain relief.
In December 2019, the federal government published a Framework for Palliative Care. This comprehensive document describes palliative care as the provision of:
- Pain and symptom management
- Psychological, social, emotional, spiritual, and practical support
- Support for caregivers during the illness and after the death of the person they are caring for.
How to access palliative care
In Ontario you can receive palliative care through:
- Your primary care provider
- Home Care and Community Supports Services (HCCSS)
- Your hospital or long-term care facility.
Palliative care can be administered at home, in hospital, in hospice or in long-term care. Although it is provided free of charge in a hospice or long-term care facility, palliative care at home can become costly because the public health system cannot provide 24-hour care at home. The Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa offers advice on financial planning.
The primary source for supportive end-of-life care in Ottawa appears to be Hospice Care Ottawa. To quote from its website:
Hospice Care Ottawa is a community-based charitable organization. We offer palliative and end-of-life programs and services to people living in the City of Ottawa. All services are offered at no charge to clients and their families. We provide Community Hospice Care programs such as in-home visits and day hospice, Residence Hospice Care, Bereavement Care and Caregiver Support. Our services meet the highest standards in a setting that reflects as closely as possible a comfortable home environment.
Residents of Ottawa Centre are fortunate to have May Court Hospice located in Old Ottawa South. They are a member of Hospice Care Ottawa and can be contacted through that site. Another hospice is the Ruddy-Shenkman in Kanata, a larger and newer facility, as well as Orleans Palliative Care Team in Orleans. Both are members of Hospice Care Ottawa and can be contacted through that site.
For those in downtown Ottawa, the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital is very involved in palliative care. Their description outlines:
Our bilingual palliative care unit at the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital provides care to patients and families requiring in-hospital care. Patients may be admitted for a short period of time to manage difficult pain and symptoms and will be discharged once these needs are met.
Other patients may be admitted for care at the end-of-life when their care needs cannot be met in other settings.
We highly encourage you to clearly share your wishes for end-of-life care with your family or trusted individuals should you ever become unable to make your own decisions. These can be outlined in a document called a ‘Power of Attorney for Personal Care.’
Financial support programs for caregivers
Informal caregivers are a vital component of palliative care and there are some supportive programs to be aware of. Canada’s E.I. Family Caregiver Benefit provides some financial support for Canadians to take leave from work to be with a family member who is seriously ill. This should be applied for as soon as possible (forms are available online).
In Ontario, if your work is part of the Employment Standards Act, you are allowed unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 28 weeks in a 52-week period to care for certain family members who have a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks.
Advance care planning should be a priority for all of us. They are conversations that may be difficult but are truly important. Each of us should have a will and designated decision-maker (both for personal care and finances) in the event that we are unable to speak for ourselves. Among other concerns, advance planning allows us to make clear our values and desires for end-of-life care. Talk to your family. It is vital. (For more on this, see “Advance Care Planning Ontario” among other online resources such as Dying with Dignity & Advance Care Planning Kit).
Compassionate Ottawa is a community movement that works to change the way we think about living well, dying, death and grief and to strengthen the capacity of people to care for each other in times of serious illness and loss.
Canadians approaching the end of life due to a grievous and irremediable medical condition can choose to have medical assistance in dying rather than wait for a natural death.
This link to the Health Canada site is very comprehensive and gives the broad framework of the federal regulations. The requirements built into the Criminal Code are stringent and are meant to ensure that the law is not subject to abuse.
A very brief summary of the requirements:
- There must be two qualified medical opinions confirming that the patient qualifies for MAID.
- The patient must apply in writing and sign a consent form.
- The patient must wait a minimum of 90 days for the assessment to be complete and to receive MAID (exceptions can apply).
- The patient must be able to affirm consent on the day of receipt of MAID (exceptions can apply to this as well).
- MAID can be administered by a qualified healthcare provider or self-administered.
While the federal government is responsible for setting out the legal framework for MAID, it is provinces that have the final say on how it is implemented.
In Ontario there is a special information service for end-of-life care and MAID:
The care co-ordination service information line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and may be reached toll free at 1-866-286-4023. Referral services are available Monday to Friday 9 am -5 pm EST in English and French (translations for other languages can also be requested). TTY services are also available at 1-844-953-3350.
Advocacy and support
Canadians have a broader choice of where and when we can elect to die than most people in the world. However, one circumstance of interest to some is still not legal – the ability to define ahead of time the point you want MAID invoked (in the absence of “decision-making ability”). This is termed making an “advance request” and will be considered during a parliamentary review. In these circumstances, unlike the “advance consent” measures proposed in Bill C-7, the person would not have made a request for MAID or been found eligible for MAID at the time when they prepare the document setting out their future wishes. At this time, those who do not want to live through a decline in mental capacity must choose to die when they are mentally capable of deciding.
An advocacy group that has been supportive of changes to the legislation allowing Canadians increasing choice is working to change this barrier as well as others pertaining to older adults. Dying with Dignity has a lot of information for families and patients who choose to use MAID. For more clinical information about MAID, browse the Ottawa Hospital website.
Drafting and editing – Seniors Watch Old Ottawa South (SWOOS), Ottawa South Community Association
- Maura Giuliani
- Carolyn Inch
- Barbara Brown
- Carole Earle
- Terrance Hunsley
- Patricia Eakins
- Alixe Ménard – PhD student – New Horizons grant contract
We would like to thank our volunteer contributors who worked hard to make this guide accurate and comprehensive!
- Beverlee McIntosh – Glebe Annex Community Association & Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa
- Lynne Davidson-Fournier, Francine Beaupré, Adrienne Stevenson, Debra Lowe, Rick Strong, Suzanne Friedlaender & Maureen Drouin – Senior Watch Alta Vista (SWAV), Alta Vista Community Association
- Dianne Breton & Georgia Blondon – Old Ottawa East Community Association
- Linda Gama-Pinto, Susan Carbone & Rosella MacNeil– Heron Park Community Association
- Karen Anne Blakely & Kirsten O’Brien – Abbotsford Seniors Centre at the the Glebe Centre
- Cathie Racicot – Community Services at South East Ottawa Community Health Centre
- Heather Maclachlan – Trinity Anglican Church
- Nancy E. Watters – Southminster United Church
- Peggy Edwards & Bonnie Schroeder – The Council on Aging of Ottawa
- Sandra MacLeod – Glebe resident & former senior policy analyst on seniors’ issues (retired)