A plan is in place with a lofty fundraising goal to build housing and an activity centre for seniors in Sooke.
The Sooke Region Community Health Network (SRCHN) needs to raise about $2 million for the project, constructed on the property next to the new Sooke library on Wadams Way.
The complex would consist of four to five storeys with 79 rental suites and includes an elders drop-in centre on the ground floor that would be open to all seniors in Sooke, said Mary Dunn, SRCHN president.
“This elders complex is a made in Sooke for Sooke preventative care project,” Dunn said. “It is an innovative model enabling our elders to independently age in place with dignity, delaying the need for assisted living services or being placed in a long-term care facility.”
Dunn said close to 30 per cent of Sooke’s population is more than 55 years of age, and that total is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Seniors living in the 5,000-square-foot complex would have easy access to shops and services in town and would add to the vibrant, growing economy of Sooke, Dunn said. It would also be near the library and transit services on Wadams Way.
Dunn said research shows that when social activity for seniors decreases, there is a rapid decline in motor function. The risk of developing a disability decreased by 43 per cent during an average period of five years for each additional activity seniors engaged in, and the risk of mobility decreased by 31 per cent.
Older adults with depression who were highly socially active were 2.5 times more likely to show improvements in their symptoms within two years. The rate of cognitive decline was reduced by an average of 70 per cent in older adults who were frequently socially active compared to those who weren’t.
Another key point is that older adults participating in a daily or weekly social activity reduced the risk of dementia by 40 per cent, Dunn said.
Affordable independent living facilities with non-medical support services – combined with the drop-in centre for community socializing and enriching life experiences – prevent social isolation and other prevalent aging challenges which seriously compromise and needlessly shorten the lives of many elders living in the Sooke Region, Dunn said. The aim is to involve youth and youth services in the project to promote activities and engagement with elders.
The District of Sooke has provided the land for the project with a 100-year lease and committed $267,000, which is earmarked strictly for the elders’ drop-in centre.
According to a staff report, the project has been in the works since 2018 and has the support of multiple agencies and levels of government. The district recently released $100,000 following a request from SRCHN to pursue funding through an application to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund Affordable Housing Stream.
Dunn said the funds released by Sooke have gone toward a zero-emission plan for the project, which she believes will enhance the potential for funding from governments.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the District of Sooke and SRCHN, which ends on May 31, 2023, sets conditions for the two organizations to work co-operatively procuring B.C. Housing funding.
Dunn said in the meantime, SRCHN is pursuing funding from the federal government, other agencies, businesses and the community while it awaits the next application period for funding from B.C. Housing is 12 to 18 months away.
“Two community members have kicked off the fundraising campaign by donating $1,000 each,” she said. “This is a unique opportunity for the community to contribute to this inspiring venture. Some of us will reach that age when the services provided through our complex will be invaluable to our quality of life. We hope the entire community will become engaged in this project and local businesses, organizations, and companies.”
Dunn said there is also the possibility that levels of government may decide to match what is raised within the community, clearing the way for work to start in 2023.
“We are planning information sessions to engage the public in the near future,” she said.