‘Radical Rest Homes’ provides innovative senior housing options

Former media personality leads the fight for safe, sound and inexpensive housing for local seniors

In a greater metropolitan area where a four and a half room apartment can easily cost over $1000 per month, recent news about a historically low vacancy rate is beginning to worry thousands of local seniors who are left to wonder how and where they’re going to live for the rest of their lives.

“We’re the boomers,” said Janet Torge. “For an entire generation, we’ve had it all our own way, and now that we’re getting old, that’s not going to change.”

As a former media personality who is also known for her work as a documentary film producer, Torge is now working on the ‘Radical Rest Homes’ movement that’s meant to propose options as to how seniors will find the acceptable and inexpensive shelter they will need for the rest of their lives. As further academic research continues to prove that loneliness and social isolation are as much of a threat to longevity as any else, Torge went on to denounce the social isolation that defines so many lives amid the city’s aging population.The movement is gaining currency everywhere.

“The key to this idea is community,” said Torge. “And the facts are that as we get older, we need community more than ever because isolation is the big killer....and the truth is that people are depressed to death.”

As ever, money is at the heart of the issue because people are beating the actuarial odds, and living well into their eighties (on average) when compared to the 12 years past their pension age (65) when time was supposed to stop for the previous generation. While seniors continue to reap the benefits of good food and lots of exercise, many believe raised rents and a low vacancy rate will reduce their options to little more than a dreary life in a tiny one-and-a half room apartment for the rest of their days.

“They’re expected to move into institutions with people they don’t know, their families are dispersed, their children have left the province, and once the rent is paid and they’ve bought their groceries, it’s a big day if they can take a walk in the park,” said Torge. “No wonder they’re worried about their future.”

As both community and social relations lie at the heart of the Radical Rest Homes concept, Torge went on to repeat her assertion that – aside from urgent and sometimes chronic medical issues that require professional care — residents would be willing and able to look after each other.

“Social interaction and close personal relationships – those are the things that maintain us,” she said.

While shared housing is always cheaper than living alone or within an institutional setting, she also went on to say that the devil is in the details because any and all of these alternative living arrangements require money – and many people just don’t have that kind of money. However, in a small co-operative model, members may have enough equity to invest in their own unit where they can help manage both the building and their own affairs. While there are plenty of working models for alternative senior accommodations in both Montreal and Laval, she repeated her assertion that community is the key to all of these initiatives.

“Living amid communities made up of friends and relations will do a lot to help seniors fight the depression, loneliness, and poverty that does a lot to define what it means to be old these days,” said Torge. “That’s why people are listening to us.”

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