Radical rest homes for hippy generation a groovy idea

Janet Torge

They are the flower children — they opposed the Viet Nam War, they tried free love, and some
 followed the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll mantra.

Now that the baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1955, are seniors,
they are thinking about how they want their “old age” to be different.
People are living longer and
looking at alternatives when it comes
to where they will live the last
chapters of their lives. That is why the idea of Radical Resthomes has sprung up across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

In Montreal, there is at least one proposal that is awaiting news of whether the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is interested in supporting it.
Janet Torge, a former broadcaster, documentary film producer, and all-around organizer, outlined some of the options in a lunch-hour talk last month to members of the Royal Montreal Curling Club, mostly

At the heart of the rethink is
research that confirms what many believe — that loneliness and social
isolation are as much a threat to longevity as obesity or excessive
tobacco and alcohol use.

“The key to all of it is community
— as we get older we need the
support of community. Isolation is a big killer, we just get depressed to death,” she told the curlers.

The idea of Radical Resthomes is that the residents look after each other. Research in two studies by Tim Smith and Julianna Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University
indicates that loneliness heightens
the risk of mortality as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, and surpasses the health risks associated with obesity.

“Social interaction and close 
relationships — those are the things that keep us going,” Torge said.

As for why women live longer than men, some studies indicate that it’s because “women are chatty, are involved in the community — we’re nurturing, we have close relationships, we keep in touch with each other,” Torge said.

When it comes to housing, the challenge posed by the senior boom is that many private pension plans are becoming underfunded, in part because retirees are living longer. There is no guarantee that what was promised
and expected will materialize.
Then there are those, like Torge herself, an independent contractor, who have to rely on government pensions. She did not own property, has no resultant nest egg to cash in, and plans to continue working.

And living in existing residences is not what they want.

“We move in with people we don’t know, and we’re expected to make friends, and when families are dispersed, the care ends up being with professionals. We live from one caregiver to the other, a different kind of lifestyle than we’ve had in the past.”
“They are institutions even if they look like the inside of a cruise ship or a hotel.”

Then there is the cost, from the low end of $2,800 to $6,000.

The idea of Radical Resthomes is that the residents look after one another, apart from medical issues that require professional care.

“The resources and care come to you, and are shared by friends, family, and experts. The care and medical help we need are focused on quality of life, not treatment.”

Living in such a cooperative
setting is cheaper, for both individuals who end up in private residences and governments that sustain public facilities.

“Shared housing is always cheaper than living alone or in institutions,” and it should become an option for those who may be reluctant to move into a residence, she said.
The devil is in the details, and there are a variety of alternatives. One is co-housing, where members have sufficient equity to buy their unit.

In Quebec City there is multi-
generational Cohabitat Québec, with about 40 units where each member or couple buys their own unit, and there are common areas for dining room, social activity room, a bike shed, and a garage with vehicles. In Sooke, B.C., there is Harbourside, a senior co-housing facility.

In a cooperative model, a group of people will pool their resources to buy a place and run it together. Most are government sponsored, but in Quebec most of them are huge, often with some 300 units, which detracts from any sense of community.

Intentional communities are those where people who have shared values
 get together, such as the Baba Yaga House for aging feminists, a self-managed home for more than 40 residents in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil built with a 1-million euro grant from the French government.

The “Do it Yourself” model includes
communes in Mendocino, Cal., and the “Golden Girls” model of shared living among women.

There can be a couple or single
living in a big house who do not want to move and have people come and stay with them, sharing in a variety of arrangements. Recently three women in Winnipeg purchased a big old house where they live together.

“Living in community is going to help with depression, loneliness,
senior poverty, and longevity,” Torge says.


Montreal’s Radical Resthome for renters

After some 30 years of thinking and talking about the idea, Janet Torge says she and a group of new friends are “on the verge” of opening Montreal’s first Radical Resthome — for renters.

“There are lots of examples of alternative housing for seniors, but you have to have money. Nobody seems to care about those who are living on government pensions.”

The idea is for six to ten people to live together and in Torge’s case, none of them are old friends but people she has met in talking to some 300 people in the past about these ideas in workshops she organized. Her group is looking at a number of buildings, including a large, older home on St. Hubert that is on the market.

“We are talking with CMHC about financing,” she said. “The idea would be to pay off the mortgage in about ten years. If eight people got involved the rent would be something like $700 a person.” There is no equity accumulation, so if a participant dies or moves on for any reason, she will be replaced by another renter.

While many issues can arise with those requiring higher degrees of care, including Alzheimer’s or dementia, the idea is “to start with people who are OK, keep in touch with people across Canada as to how they are handling things, and follow the research.”

“Ideally it would be multi-generational, so that the care would be shared. It’s co-living. Radical Resthomes is not for people who need care all the time, but we’ll keep you fit, happier, and living longer than if you went into a residence when you were 75.”

12 Comments on "Radical rest homes for hippy generation a groovy idea"

  1. Maggie Bugden | April 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Reply

    Thanks good article on rest homes!

  2. Torge needs to define the concept of residents “looking after each other” at a Radical Resthome.

    What exactly does this involve? Someone to drive you to a medical appointment? Shop for you if you’re afraid of falling on ice?

    And what happens if a resident’s financial circumstances change suddenly and they can’t afford the expenses? Will her co-radical resthomers take pity or be realistic?

    I also think Torge’s spin is too optimistic on why women live longer or how well women can get along living under the same roof.

    A longer female lifespans may, in part, be attributed to women less reluctant than men to go to a doctor; as for a TV Golden Girls scenario, I’m not convinced. Maybe Sophia’s generation or even Blanche & Dorothy’s generation could manage it. But boomer women? Oh, the competition…

  3. Lynne Markell | August 1, 2018 at 9:00 pm | Reply

    I think Radical Resthomes is about a concept that still needs some “wheels”. They are right on about the need and lots of people agree with the broad idea of community-based housing that is started and managed by the seniors who live there.
    The challenge is how to do this within our conventional housing infrastructure, including government programs. In Ottawa, some of us are planning a cohousing project and there is a new alliance of groups to lobby for better policies, support systems, and innovative thinking to enable us to make this happen.
    Our generation knows how to speak up and we now need to do it for better housing for us!

    • Hi Lynne Markell:
      sounds intriguing but what do you mean by a ‘cohousing project?’
      Alas, I believe planning the boomer generation’s post-retirement housing options needed to be addressed 20 years ago, specifically by demographers, builders and politicians, (the latter group having the power to rezone land).

  4. I’ve been researching the co-ops for seniors for some 20 years now, so to Dorothy, the planning has been going on that long. So much about the advantages etc. etc. but very little in terms of reality and availablility unless you want to live in BC. I also read above about the advantages of people looking after one another and about the costs which apparently can be as high as $6,000 a mo. I hate to think of the cost if there was outside help.

  5. None of the ideas appear that radical, other than the concept of looking after one another, which as mentioned above needs some clarificaiton.
    Radical is what I am proposing here, If any of you saw the movie Bestest Exotic Marigold Hotel and liked the idea of living abroad as well as finding and interesting building to share with other like-minded people, I invite you to contact me so that we can see if there are others who would appreciate the idea. I have been reasearching small towns in Italy and came across some pretty fascinating possibilities that I would love to share with you. It doesn’t have to be Italiy of course but what intriguing pssibilities can be found when looking outside the same old same old that is presented to us here….It’s a good reason to get together and dream if nothing else. Contact me.

  6. Christine Collins | January 10, 2020 at 8:57 am | Reply

    This sounds like a wonderful concept….are there any in or around montreal?

  7. I just saw my typos in my previous post. Sorry about that.

    I would love to get together with others who are exploring ideas similar to the one I have written about above or similar while remaining more local, I live in Ottawa……There are some fantastic deals in purchasing large homes, estates with elegance and space that could accomodate 3 or more women. Often these places have become too costly to manage by a single family and appeal to a small market meaning great deals for purchasers. My idea is to design such a home by seperating it into small studio spaces so that each and every woman has her own space and privacy. Then the large kitchen and dining and living areas would be considered the “common areas”. In other words the best of both worlds. Purchasing a part of such a home would be less costly than a single family home. Consider being owner of such spacious estate, luxury living, pool and all for less than you now pay for the home you now reside in. .Food for thought and something to discuss in further details of course.
    So if the concept appeals to you please contact me, we could set up an interesting place to meet and continue discussing the possiblilities. At the very least, we would have and interesting outing.

  8. Christine Collins | July 3, 2021 at 4:29 pm | Reply

    I like the idea…i m in joliette Québec…anything around here? Cost?

  9. I am in Ottawa, people have bee discussing the possibilities of co housing for seniors for ever. Co housing means owning a property together. The difficulty in realizing such a project will occur wheb some government involvement is required which makes it all slow, very slow. I am proposing getting together and creating our own co housing project. All that is required then is a lawyer to put together the legalities that protect every individual involved, financially protected.

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