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The absence of senior housing with supports, which forces many seniors to move away is a common concern among municipal managers in many of Canada’s smaller communities.

Because of their smaller size, many retirement home providers can’t justify building a retirement home that is large enough to achieve operational efficiency.

But what if they added different, but complementary housing to achieve that critical size? Right now the Federal Government is providing infrastructure money for affordable housing, so why not do some affordable housing?  Add to that senior rental housing with some services, say a few meals per month, housekeeping help and safety measures like emergency response and you have a project that provides  the economies of scale needed, the safety and security that seniors value, and the ability to age in place. And, from a provider’s perspective, you have potentially created a barrier to entry for others in that town.

That concern was raised in a recent article in Niagara This Week, where the City of Thorold is prepared to give land to anyone who can bring an assisted living residence or long term care home to the area.

Mostly it’s an issue of the size of the community and the number of seniors that may form demand for such a building in the case of assisted living, and the overall need in the local LHIN, or Local Health Integration Network - the agency that dictates the need for new long term care beds.

Thorold is a city of approximately 18,000 people in the Niagara Region, based on the 2011 Census. It has grown little since 1996, when it had 17,800 persons.  The “retirement age” segment, those over 75 have grown from 855 in 1996, to 1,320 by 2011, expected to be 1,830 by 2026.

There is one retirement residence in Thorold, Cobblestone Gardens Retirement Home, which offers both independent supportive living and assisted living. Care Planning Partners estimates that there is need for at least another 100 units of combined independent supportive and assisted living in 2016.  But the assisted living demand will be directly affected by any new long term care beds brought to Thorold, reducing that demand.

There are no long term care homes in Thorold.

Because the Province still has to redevelop over 30,000 existing long term care beds, the chances of getting a new nursing home at this time may be slim.

Our analysis shows that the need in the Niagara portion (Lincoln and east) of the LHIN will only have 60 beds per 1,000 over 75 by 2026, so there will be a small need for new beds by then.

But, it may be possible to move some beds to Thorold, so as to keep seniors in their community.

The reporter, Paul Forsyth, in his comments “regional staff said recently that moving from smaller homes like those in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie to homes with 160 to 240 beds can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in efficiencies”. 

That may help Thorold because the local threshold, assuming a target of 80 units per 1,000 persons over 75, could justify a 160 bed home.

Niagara-on-the-Lake has an estimated 116 beds per 1,000 and the loss of 80 beds at Upper Canada Lodge would reduce their supply to 78/1,000. Fort Erie on the other hand has an estimated 86 beds per 1,000 in 2016, and the loss of the 80 beds at Gilmore Lodge would lower their beds to only 61/1,000.


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