I have aging relatives in Gravenhurst, Ontario. I went there for a visit in August 2016. While there, I was looking into the services and resources available to older adults. What I found, or should I say didn’t find, was quite alarming.
The Aging in Place Strategy for Canada is great in theory, but providing resources and services to meet the needs of the aging population is proving to be quite the challenge.
Gravenhurst is a small, pretty lake town located just 90 minutes north of Toronto. It has a population of 12,179 according to the Gravenhurst Community Profile 2013. A whopping 23% of the residents are 65 and older (compared to 14.6% in all of Ontario). This community is growing older, and the needs of this aging population are also growing.
In the summer the population swells due to the number of cottagers who escape the summer heat to their cool lakeside getaways. Some of the cottages on Lake Muskoka are huge! I took a tour with William of Big 3 Tours and he showed us some cottages that are 1-5 million dollar price range. Celebrities such as Martin Short own cottages in the area.
In terms of at risk seniors and meeting their needs, it seems like Gravenhurst is lacking in the basics. I was told to call “211” to speak to a nurse about health care resources. The lady on the line was very helpful. I ended up talking to a few very nice and well-meaning individuals and sometimes my conversations went full-circle without any definite answers. It seems like there is no one place for all the information I was looking for which proved to be very frustrating. I spent a few hours on the phone but came up with some answers and resources which I’ll share here.
There are no hot Meals on Wheels available in Gravenhurst due to the lack of available volunteers. There are services available in Bracebridge, a neighbouring community which is a 15-minute drive north. In Gravenhurst, the only option recommended to me is a company called Apetito.ca. They will deliver frozen meals once monthly. All of the information is online, so it can be difficult for those who do not have access to a computer, or do not know how to use a computer. It appears to me that the only meals on wheels available to older adults are the fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Tim Hortons which also conveniently have a drive-thru. I am also assuming that the local grocery stores have ready prepared meals, which may be a better option. For those with special diets (cardiac, diabetic, gluten free), this can pose a challenge.
Housekeeping and Yard Work (Home Support)
In terms of housekeeping, the Ontario government does not offer any services. In Winnipeg, to those who cannot afford to hire privately. In Gravenhurst, I was given a few different private companies to follow up with:
Seniors for Seniors – 1-705-645-0199 (Tom)
Closing the Gap Healthcare – 1-877-560-0202
Happy at Home Support Services – 1-705-703-9980 (light housekeeping and yard work)
Bayshore Healthcare – 1-705-722-8993 (Barrie office)
Red Cross Community Support Services – 1-705-721-3313
Busy Lizzie Cleaning Services – 1-877-207-8718 or 1-705-687-6183
There are two taxi companies in Gravenhurst – OK Taxi (705-684-8294) and Gravenhurst Taxi (705-687-2246). I’ve been told that Red Cross will provide transportation to the nearest hospital if needed (South Muskoka Memorial Hospital), which is in Bracebridge, at 75 Ann Street. There are two bus companies that serve Gravenhurst – Ontario Northland for service north or south, and the Corridor 11 bus which can take you directly to the front door of the hospital in Bracebridge for $7.00. OK Taxi will pick you up from the hospital and bring you back to your home in Gravenhurst for $25.00. (Prices from 2017 and subject to change without notice.)
Aging at Home Vans or Registered Volunteers are offered through Muskoka Seniors.
Housing for Seniors
In terms of seniors’ housing, there are a few options. There are “retirement residences” and a “long term care” facility.
The Manor at Gravenhurst (operated by Lifetimes Living Inc.) is a quaint little 40-bed retirement residence I toured in August 2016. It was originally a hotel, and there are studio apartments with attached washrooms, studio apartments with shared washrooms, and double rooms (two studios with an attached washroom). All meals, medications, housekeeping, laundry, recreation and parking are included in the rent which ranges from $1,900/month to $4,000/month. Residents are free to come and go as they please and the ages range from 60 to 100. 1-705-687-3356.
Granite Ridge Retirement Residence Assisted Care – 1-705-687-0007
Muskoka Shores Care Community – Transitions operated by Sienna Senior Living (formerly Leisure World) – 1-705-687-3444
The Pines Long-Term Care Home – 160 beds, located in Bracebridge.
Other Important Resources
Your doctor. Physicians have access to and knowledge of resources that I may have missed here.
North Simcoe Muskoka Community Care Access Centre (CCAC)- Accessing Home Care services. Office located in Huntsville, Ontario. 1-888-721-2222 or 1-705-721-8010
Seniors Assessment and Support Outreach Team (SASOT) – Operated out of the hospital in Bracebridge. I spoke to a very nice person there, and she says they “dig deeper” and all you need to do is get the doctor to make a referral to their team. 1-705-645-4400. ext. 3505.
Muskoka Seniors – Helping Seniors Live at Home. 1-705-789-6676.
Assisted Living Services for High Risk Seniors – Currently a six-month wait list. Services provided by The Friends (1-705-697-5100, ext. 22). It is a not-for-profit organization. There is also an Adult Day Program available for socialization and a meal. It costs $15 a day and $2 for transportation one way. There is a wait list of about six months. The wait list for homemaking is five years. They do not do yard work. For information on Assisted Living Services for High Risk Seniors, go through the CCAC case manager or call 1-888-721-2222 or 1-705-721-8010.
Long-Term Care Homes in North Simcoe Muskoka – 9-page document with information on long-term care homes.
North Simcoe Muskoka Healthline – Online listing of health services in the area.
Seniors Centre – The Town of Gravenhurst has an active seniors’ centre and there is plenty of socialization and things to do for those wanting to remain active and involved.
Working Towards Age-Friendly Solutions
As I was doing my research, I was happy to find out that the District of Muskoka is working on a Master Aging Plan with assistance from an Age-Friendly Community grant received from the Ontario government. Here is a link for more information on how you can get involved: www.muskoka.on.ca//AgeFriendlyCommunities. I hope that they will be able to fill in the gaps soon to enable the residents of Gravenhurst remain in their homes as long as possible.
Overall, I would say that it is a very complex and frustrating experience to get information on services for older adults in need in Gravenhurst. The Seniors Wellness Outreach Coordinator at The District of Muskoka was most helpful. Those who have limitations or who have limited family support will especially find it difficult to get the services they require. If you have any further information to add to this list, please let me know in the comments below.
Angela G. Gentile, M.S.W., R.S.W. is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and two adult children. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com