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About 200 Mississauga seniors losing retirement home to sale

About 200 seniors in Mississauga will soon be evicted from their retirement residence to make way for a private housing development, and both residents and family members are worried about how they’ll find accommodations on short notice that offer similar care.

Residents of 188 units at Chartwell Heritage Glen Retirement Residence received eviction notices this month, telling them the residence was permanently closing and they would have to move out by the end of July.

The retirement residence offers seniors a variety of living arrangements, from independent living to assisted living, with staff providing regular care. The building is being sold to a private developer.

Barbara Tarrant, who moved into the home less than a year ago, says she won’t be able to live in a regular residence. Though she says she’s still fairly independent, she was able to get regular care at the retirement home, and appreciated the social benefits of living among people her own age.

“I thought this would be my last move,” she said. “It was a shock.”

A middle-aged man stands in a parking lot in front of a large residential building. It's a sunny spring day. He's wearing sunglasses, is visible from the waist up, and smiling at the camera.
Gordon Cork says the care his 91-year-old father received in his 11 years at Chartwell Heritage Glen has extended his life, but moving him could be a ‘death sentence.’ (Sarah Tomlinson/CBC)

Gordon Cork says his 91-year-old father, who is hemiplegic and has lived in the residence for 11 years, has limited alternatives for housing.

“The care here has been what’s kept him alive,” Cork said. “He’s so close to the end of life, to take away all that community now, I don’t want to dramatize it, but it’s a death sentence.”

He says the news came as a blow to his family, as well as his father.

“My dad is the toughest, most stoic man I’ve ever met,” Cork said. “I heard when he understood the gravity of the situation, he cried.”

Chartwell helping through transition

Chartwell says is helping residents find new housing options, while providing three months rent as compensation, and four months’ notice, instead of the three months required by law. The company has also told residents it will cover all relocation expenses within a 50 km radius.

“The aging infrastructure of the buildings has made it unsustainable to continue operations as a retirement residence,”Chartwell spokesperson Mary Perrone-Lisi said in a statement.

Perrone-Lisi said the company has entered into a purchase agreement with developer Minto. She says Minto plans to replace the retirement home with an apartment building with rental units for all ages.

Chartwell has a team of dedicated consultants helping residents one-on-one to navigate the transition, she said.

A middle aged woman in a scarf stands in front of a large residential building on a sunny day
Pam Leermakers says it will be hard to afford to move her mother-in-law to another seniors home that will offer the care she needs, saying other options she’s seen are sometimes triple the cost. (Sarah Tomlinson/CBC)

Pam Leermakers says all that help and compensation is doing little to ease her family’s stress, as they look for a new place for her mother-in-law to live. Location is one problem, as the retirement home is only two blocks from her house. A bigger issue, she says, is that the compensation offered will only cover one month’s rent if her mother-in-law moves to another retirement home.

“We’re looking at double to triple the cost,” she said. “Affordability is a huge thing for us.”

Although some residents and family members feel the compensation and notice won’t be enough, Ontario’s Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority said in an email that Chartwell has complied with the regulatory requirements to permanently close a retirement residence.

Public options backlogged

Long-term care homes are a publicly-funded affordable option, but many seniors aren’t eligible, and for those who are, the wait is long.

“What we have seen of course is that where you have a backlog of more than 40,000 people in Ontario waiting for long-term care, many people of course are forced into this private pay system,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge, a national advocacy group for seniors.

“What that means is that the providers of retirement home services are now having a very frail, very old resident population.”

As such, Tamblyn Watts says retirement homes are increasingly relied upon to offer more intensive care for seniors who can’t live independently, but can’t get into long-term care homes. She says the closure is a two-fold problem for residents.

“When a retirement home closes, it’s not just like a regular tenancy,” she said. “They’re also losing their care providers.”

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