By: James Watson
In the last blog article I wrote about the inherent “green” qualities of home care in terms of how it contributes to strong and sustainable communities by empowering seniors to remain in their homes. I explained how communities with many seniors, with strong knit social ties between the young and old, might be better poised to advocate around common environmental causes and create positive outcomes.
This week I would like to broaden the topic beyond only homecare to include senior care in institutional settings like long-term care homes, retirement residences and assisted living communities. I wish to emphasize that such green potential may exist within them and that all it takes is a little innovation and creative thinking to tease it out.
Greening Senior Care
Long-term care homes, retirement residences and assisted living communities present considerable challenges for a greener, more sustainable future in senior care. They are often housed in large buildings with equally large energy expenditures. They all have large common living areas and corridors that must be lit and heated or cooled regardless of whether they are in use. Family members wishing to visit their loved ones will often drive to the building, parking in an outdoor lot where a productive green space like a small park or forest could have been instead. Yet even despite these negative characteristics, these buildings may also present great opportunities for more “green” personalized care.
Green Roof Potential
Take the following long-term care home as an example of one embracing its greener side – here is a link to the news release: Wellesley Central green roof illustrating sector’s evolving sophistication. The release profiles the Wellesley Central Place, a long-term care home in Toronto’s downtown core that has incorporated a green roof into its building’s design. The green roof’s use of solar panels provides a source of renewable energy while the planting of grasses and other plants provide the building with better insulation and greater overall energy efficiency. In addition, the unique gardening opportunities presented by the green roof allow for activities that keep the home’s residents mentally stimulated and physically active.
An Environmental Legacy
With the senior demographic growing ever larger in Canada, the implications of their care decisions will grow too. It is up to the service providers to provide consumers with environmentally sound options so that everybody may receive the personalized care they desire while guaranteeing a positive environmental legacy for younger generations.
By: James Watson
I wanted to write about something in this blog that has been on my mind ever since before I began working at Premier Homecare Services but had yet put any pen to paper over it.
It all started with a conversation I had with one of my professors while in my final year of an undergraduate degree in Environment & Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. I had been presented with the offer to come work for Premier Homecare Services once I graduated. A great opportunity, no doubt, but I was conflicted over how my education might have no relevance. I visited one of my professors in the Environmental Studies Faculty for advice and I was grateful I did, for what she said reinforced my final decision to take the position and enter the homecare business.
Do I take the job?
I sat across from her in her office and explained my situation; she already knew some of it. Academia was not my thing but I was still very passionate about everything I was studying – environmental issues, economics, peace and conflict studies – so how could I tie all that in with this opportunity I was given? I went on to clarify, the best I could at the time, what Premier Homecare Services did: “they help seniors remain in their home by employing caregivers that will visit them and help them around the house.” She began smiling from ear to ear … I was immediately reminded that I was speaking to the professor who taught the course on Sustainable Communities and Good Governance.
“That is great!” she declared. “The elderly form the very roots of a community. They know its history – both human and environmental – firsthand. They knew next to everybody in the neighbourhood. Move them out and seclude them in nursing homes to the disadvantage of the whole community! If the community ties breakdown, so too are any environmental safeguards at risk.” She was entirely right and it clicked in my mind instantaneously. We continued discussing the various aspects how seniors contribute to a sustainable community and I left feeling confident in accepting the job offer.
Senior Citizens and Sustainable Communities
It is true because sustainability is not only about placing a park here, planting a tree there and installing some solar panels on your roof. No. Rather, sustainability is a mindset, an ideal that an individual and community alike must strive toward. A strong knit community with social ties between the young and old will be better poised to advocate around a common environmental cause and mobilize actual, positive change. It might be a downtown community creating a neighbourhood garden to grow fresh vegetables or a suburban community protesting the introduction of a big box store into their neighbourhood, but in either case there is little doubt in my mind that our senior citizens would be among those leading the charge or support those who are. They would be the ones teaching the children which weeds to pull in the garden or testifying to the importance of small, local business in front of the town council meeting.
Empowering seniors to remain in their homes, among their communities abundant with history and social resources, in my mind, is most certainly a step positive step toward sustainability. That the provision of in-home care acts toward this end reinforces my confidence in embracing the opportunity I was given.