With an aging population, it is critical that seniors living in the community receive the support they need. It is important that new effective and cost-efficient strategies are developed to help seniors live where they want to live and prosper in their chosen communities.
The Oasis Senior Supporting Living program, is a unique model of active aging-in-place originally developed with a group of seniors living in an apartment building in Kingston. While Oasis has been cherished for many years by members and the many people who work with them, its value and potential has recently been recognized outside the city.
Professors Catherine Donnelly and Vince DePaul from the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University are leading a research project to expand and evaluate the Oasis Model into seven new communities in four cities in Ontario. In this project, they have partnered with the seniors at the original Oasis program at Bowling Green II apartment in Kingston, the Oasis Board of Directors, and researchers at Western University in London, and McMaster University in Hamilton.
“The Oasis model is a unique model that’s seniors driven,” says Dr. Donnelly. “Isolation can be a major issue for seniors who are living alone and who may have challenges getting out and about. With Oasis, there is a support system naturally built in to where they are living. Members can connect with others in their familiar space.”
Each Oasis building features an Oasis members committee, a community board of directors and onsite program coordinator. Oasis members drive the program and direct the programming, including communal meals, social activities, and exercise and activity programs. The onsite program coordinator supports all aspects of the program delivery, working with the members. The community board offers oversight and governance support and has been instrumental in supporting Oasis.
All programming occurs in the apartment building where seniors are living ensuring that Oasis brings the services they need to them. Programming includes everything from a Wii bowling league, exercise classes, creative writing workshops, and daily coffee times. Three days a week, catered meals are served to Oasis members in a communal dining space.
“This was a very grassroots, seniors-driven, community-supported idea. The original Oasis building opened about 10 years ago in the Bowling Green II apartment owned and operated by Homestead Landholdings,” says Dr. DePaul. “Homestead has been very supportive from the beginning, including providing space for the program to operate. They continue to be very supportive as we move forward to expand the program to other buildings. We have also received support from another Kingston landlord, CJM, to open an Oasis program in one of their buildings here in the city. It’s these partnerships that are critical.”
The project has been funded through three separate grants from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, the Baycrest Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovations, and the Ontario Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility. The funds from each grant are being used to support the expansion and evaluation of Oasis into different buildings. The project team includes colleagues from Western University, McMaster University and Queen’s. Work began on this project this past summer and will continue for the next 18 months. Kingston is now preparing to open its second facility.
This new funding will allow this multidisciplinary and multi-community project with new programs being put in place, and the model evaluation with an eye on refining the process and, potentially, bringing new aging in place communities on board.
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This story was originally published in the Queen’s Gazette.