Villa Alfred Xavier
The principal objective of Villa Alfred Xavier is to maintain and even enhance the "global health" of the resident-members... retirees (aged 55 to 70, or more) who are still autonomous.
To do this, the Villa will offer services that have a synergistic positive influence on the living environment of these seniors, while at the same time helping them to maintain a healthy valorization. This complex will include specialized lodging that will be affordable to all the Alliance members (who do not qualify for subsidized public housing, and do not have a large enough revenue base to pay for condo type luxury on their own), as well as activities and services that will help them to make ends meet, plus accentuate the prestige of the project.
The Villa Alfred Xavier company is a new initiative that will offer prestigious services and lodging to retirees having average revenues who live in Gatineau and the Outaouais Region. In order to ensure management transparency and a profit to investor-members, the VAX will be incorporated as a private for-profit provincial entity, and which will allow resident-members to actively participate in the management of the residence-Villa and to individually profit from same. The VAX will be the first in a series of unique living environments to be put to the service of Canadian seniors, under the direction of Villas 3rd Wave, a private Canadian corporation.
The predicted crisis in the next 15 years, that is the shortage of seniors' health services combined with an increase in fees for such services, will force a large number of these "new old ones" to review their options more closely.
Already we are seeing more and more articles on the subject in the popular press. The Jan.17th Maclean's cover page shows how far we have come. The All in The Family article elaborates quite vividly on the plight of some families. Families considered average, as much financially as in available resources to take care of ageing family members.
Of note, it talks about an emergency service help desk and the fact that 90% of those who used the phone in service did not have to visit the hospital emergency wards in their area. A recent study by the Toronto District Health Council confirmed the waste in emergency services - out of a million visits, only 200,000 qualified as true emergencies. With an average cost of $100 per such visit, we are talking about a "loss" of $80,000,000.
Such articles reinforce the tendency of people to rely on government services. If costs increase, then its simple - increase government contributions. The authors (Karen Parent and Malcolm Anderson) of a recent report on home-care services advise that there is no coherent strategy, nor sufficient funding and manpower, to meet increasing demand. "All that is ok for people who can afford private care, or those with lower than average revenues and who qualify for subsidized care... but there is a group with average revenues who become impoverished when they have to provide such services themselves. Mr. David Globerman of the Running to Daylight Foundation of Toronto advises us that there is "...a bias against seniors in the health care system... As a society, we do not valorize them. An when there is a shortage of resources, they fall to the bottom of the barrel." We could continue and talk about the services, their quality, in "residences" and other health care centres for ageing people, but enough !
Conditions and Tendencies of the Environment
More and more of the articles in the popular press relate to the ageing babyboomers. We are reminded that the number of aged people is on the increase. These same media provide us with facts on the costs of health services for these older citizens, of their tendency towards more and more medication... those that are newer, and costlier. Various studies underline the fact that "...demands for services far exceed their availability... home care services... hospital day-visits... home psychotherapy staff... temporary lodging... community resources..."1.
They highlight the lack by this generation of participation in society... of their isolation even by their relatives. They touch, however briefly, on the tendency to suicide... further to their demoralisation upon being shunted out of sight, out of mind. We see shock articles that highlight attacks, more frequent now, on the possessions, even the person herself, by immoral people. We are reminded of the fact that there is "...a very high level of long-term institutionalization in Québec (10 to 11% including both private and public)"2, and that it continues to rise since these statistics from 1993. They continue to talk about increasing the availability of health care to meet demand or to more wisely use them.
Villa Alfred Xavier suggests that the best way to manage these resources is not to increase or elaborate them, but rather to reduce demand ! It is better to "...put to better use... our resources and its equipments in an environment of delegation and partnership with the local communities."3
All the statistics indicate that we are on the path to a major crisis. A crisis of conscience in wishing to provide the necessary services to ensure a long life for our seniors... a healthy life as well as one of peace of mind.
But all that costs a lot !
Imagine the astronomical costs when the babyboomers start to enter this seniors category... of old people !
It will cost a lot, eh ? !
On the other side is a society that is demanding balanced budgets from their governments, so no question of increasing taxes !
Talk about a catch-22 ! We spend or we cut ?
Health... always of primary importance... but so misunderstood. New, recent, research reports have shed light on the link, some would say strong link, between the environment (home, residence, lodging...) and the level of health of the individual. This link, so unknown, is also linked to the moral of the individual... his psychological health... which has a major influence on that same health level. We only need to remember doctors' comments, and that of others involved in the health industry, that the majority of "...illnesses are in the head of the patient"... psychological links ! A low moral leads to influenceable sickness, which leads to stronger demands on the health system, which leads to higher medical costs, which leads to increased taxes. It is certainly not the best way to insure the security of our valued health care safety net. The tendency these days is to create "...social housing projects"3... a concept that relies on community based services, and which are "...susceptible to get around part of the loss of autonomy..."3 (of the residents).
And the security of the individual ? We only need to listen to the news to realize that more and more seniors are victims of assault, as much on the physical side (forced entry, stolen possessions, and even rape) as on the psychological side (threats, cons, intimidation, and others). Of course there are residences with secure entrance ways, but these only oblige robbers to enter by the windows and the individual apartment entrances, on the ground floor, of the residents... older people without defences.
Conditions and Tendencies of the Market
And there you have a cohort that will be, in the majority, more comfortable than their elders... who will be able to allow themselves a little more luxury, and more choices.
But careful, "...many older people, even if they are autonomous, eat only a little if not at all, and quite a few of them cannot undertake their own housekeeping."4 Moreover, "...if we asked seniors to chose between an apartment or lodging... with meals service (studios, room & board... js), they would most likely opt for the second type of accommodations."5 The majority of the people prefer "...to live in an environment that is adapted, secure and welcoming..." with "...help to accomplish certain tasks..." and with "...social community activities to fight isolation and maintain their capabilities", and "...with the objective to alleviate, in part, the loss of autonomy and preserve their present capabilities..."3
This desire to obtain services having some luxury aspects will open the door to success to all companies that are ready to be innovative... in offering these elements at affordable prices.
These same seniors also have the desire to also profit. Its no longer a question of only a few that profit, they also wish to profit. It has become fashionable to share... in something that will profit greatly. A company with traditional profit motives will not make many friends. But a company that shares profits with its member-residents, that will be largely supported.
Add to all this the need of these seniors to participate, actively, in management activities, and especially those that valorize them. Research reports on health issues clearly show that there exists a strong link between a person's health and that of a long life, with that of their accommodations... a healthy environment leads to strong health, as well as to an invaluable peace of mind.
Mission... Possible !
Many people think like I do... enough ! Its time to make a paradigm jump... shift, in our thoughts regarding a strategy to avoid the coming crisis. Its time to think, very simply, of avoiding the vicious cycle that has always taken us towards ever increasing demands on our health system.
We must encourage people at the start of their retirement to think of staying healthy... and maintain their valorization to themselves... and to society.
That is the challenge that Villa Alfred Xavier has set for itself by its construction and its operating as the first...Villa.
Note-1 --- Selon Mme. Andrée Demers-Allan, Conseillère ?la programmation au CSSSRM, dans le compte rendu du colloque tenu ?Montréal en 11/91, intitul?Les habitations pour personnes âgées en perte d'autonomie, page 29.
Note-2 --- Selon Mme. Micheline Nader, Directrice générale du Château Westmount, et Présidente du Regroupement des résidences pour retraités du Québec, dans le résum?Des Résidences de Qualit?pour les Aînés du Québec, page 33. Un résum?prépar?suite ?la rencontre (01/1993) entre des intervenants dans le secteur des services aux aînés et la Direction générale de la planification et de la recherche ?la Sociét?d'Habitation du Québec - SHQ, dans le cadre de la série Les Entretiens sur l'Habitat.
Note-3 --- selon Mme. Marielle Dion, membre du conseil d'administration de la corporation Les Habitations les II Volets et autres, Les Habitations pour personnes âgées en perte d'autonomie, page 9
Note-5 --- Selon les discussions dans l'atelier sur le projet architectural, notamment sur la typologie des logements, Les habitations pour personnes âgées en perte d'autonomie, page 51.
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