The future of seniors housing?

I wrote earlier about attending a workshop on re-imagining seniors housing organized by SE Health and Sidewalk Labs.

Sidewalk is the Google-related company working with Waterfront Toronto to design a technology-enabled community. SE Health sees the future of seniors health care taking place mainly in the home. The two wanted to get some intel on how they could better meet needs for access to in-home health care.

SE Health has now produced its report and findings from the workshop. You probably need to be a bit of a wonk to really appreciate it, but everybody needs to feed their inner wonk from time to time, so…

A cure (almost) nobody wants

As we’ve written elsewhere, our vision of cohousing includes a shared kitchen and a practice of eating a meal together most days.

In our view, this is a feature, not a bug. It promotes community, ensures variety and eases the workload of making daily meals.

It is also the most-cited reason given by people who, having taken the time to consider our model, eventually come to reject it. They just can’t imagine sharing a kitchen.

Similarly, at the recent workshop on seniors housing organized by SE Health and Sidewalk Labs, only 14 percent of participants indicated a willingness to consider living in an arrangement with shared kitchen and living spaces (full disclosure: I was one of them); the vast majority insisted that a separate kitchen was essential.

And yet…

And yet, here it is again, this time in a recent article from the National Post, citing the well-established link between eating with others and health:

Many [experts in the field of senior health], including nutrition professor Catherine Morley, are applauding a section of Canada’s new food guide that encourages people to eat with others when possible…

…45 per cent of older adults admitted to hospital for a non-nutrition diagnosis were malnourished.


“It takes a village in a situation like this,” says Carol Greenwood, an emeritus at the University of Toronto in nutritional sciences and a senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute.
“Families are not tight-knit the way they used to be four generations ago when people moved a block away from one another.”

See full article

I find it baffling. A shared kitchen leads to better health and longevity, but most of us won’t consider it. I guess we’re just misfits here at Wine on the Porch.