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The Changing Face of Aging in the Ottawa Valley

One thing that makes the Ottawa Valley unique is the staying power of its residents. There’s something about being “from the Valley”. People take pride in it.

In communities stretching throughout Renfrew County, including towns and the rural areas in between live just over 100,000 people. In Pembroke, the percentage of residents who are above 65 is 26%. For the rest of the country it’s 20%.

Some might say it’s a good place to grow old. But is that the case for everyone? If you have means, then okay. But if you’re living in a fixed income as are many elderly people in Renfrew County, the increasing cost of living is diminishing their ability to afford basic essentials such as transportation, food and housing.

This leads to a chain effect with limited access to food and healthcare preventing people from being able to continue living in their homes. As a not for profit charity, Carefor’s role is to help bridge the gap for seniors to community services and affordable living.

Access to Health Care

Carefor’s non-urgent medical transportation picks up seniors and transports them to their medical appointments. With Renfrew County having no public transit system and private alternatives being limited and costly, Carefor’s transportation program provides a more affordable alternative to allow seniors to get to the places they most need. Without access to medical appointments, elderly people might not as well have them, increasing the likelihood of hospitalizations.

Food Insecurity

Throughout the Ottawa Valley are seniors who live alone. Many for whatever reason don’t cook as much as they used to. Perhaps it’s not having anyone else to cook for; perhaps a loved one had always taken care of it; perhaps they just can’t get to the grocery store like they used to.

Carefor’s frozen meal delivery program brings prepared meals right to people’s doors so they have easier access to good, nutritious food. “These programs are becoming more and more essential,” says Alice Grenon, Carefor’s Manager of Community Support Services. “We’re not only seeing more seniors in our communities, and with the cost of living, people are struggling to afford basic things that they might have previously been able to.”

Housing Insecurity

The vast majority of people want to age in their homes, but that’s not always the best option for some. With limited supports, many seniors are isolated and age alone. It can be dangerous for many, causing them to seek out other options. But if you’re on a government pension without other sources of financial supports, where can you go?

Many retirement homes are out of range for lower income seniors leaving a gap between them and the other alternatives: hospital, long-term care and homelessness. Carefor’s two retirement homes, Carefor Civic Complex and Carefor Mackay Centre bridge that gap offering accommodation for people with limited means and options.

What people often don’t see in these two retirement homes are the integrated supports that exist for the residents. “We’re seeing more and more people coming to us with complex physical and mental health challenges,” says Sharon Maye, Director of Retirement Home Services. “Here we offer specialized services such as assisted living and mental health supports that help people dealing with more complex challenges.”

While large buildings, what you can’t see when you look at Civic and Mackay from the outside are the intimate communities and relationships between the staff and residents, and residents with one another. There is a family feel in the homes and people looking out for one another. People understand what each other has gone through and where they’re from, and they help each other feel a sense of belonging.

To learn more about our retirement homes in Pembroke or our community support services, please visit our website.