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Seniors’ Series: What About Retirement Homes? 

This series has already addressed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the long-term care system, and certain steps that the government has taken to manage the current crisis. It is important to remember, however, that many vulnerable seniors also live in retirement homes, which have so far not received the same amount of public attention.

A “retirement home is defined in the Retirement Homes Act[1] as “a residential complex or part of a residential complex” that:

  • is mainly occupied by people who are at least 65 years old;
  • is occupied, or intended to be occupied, by at least the prescribed number of people, which is currently six,[2] who are not related to the operator of the home;
  • makes at least two services available to the occupants; and
  • is not any of the types of facilities governed by certain other statutes, such as a long-term care home or a hospital.

Retirement home operators are licensed, and the homes are regulated by the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (the “RHRA”). They do not receive public funding for care services like long-term care homes do, and the care services that they provide are not as tightly regulated. The relationship between a retirement home operator and an occupant is largely that of a landlord and a tenant.

It is commonly expected that residents of retirement homes require less care than residents of long-term care homes. The reality, however, is that retirement home residents can face a wide variety of care needs, related to both their physical and mental health. The relative independence that comes with living in a retirement home is appealing, and some people try to make any arrangement outside of long-term care work for as long as they can.

The government of Ontario publishes statistics on COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes, broken down by the individual homes. While not all of the same information is readily available, the RHRA does provide regional data, and list homes with active and resolved outbreaks, at: https://www.rhra.ca/en/covid19dashboard/.

Extensive information on how retirement homes are addressing the pandemic, and what it means for residents, visitors, operators, and staff, is also available on the RHRA’s website, at: https://www.rhra.ca/en/covid-19/.

As Canada prepares for potential upcoming spike in COVID-19 infections, we must remember that not all of our most vulnerable citizens are in the long-term care system. While news media continue to cover this system’s shortcomings, and governments direct resources toward attempts to fix it, they must also be mindful of the needs of those seniors who already do not expect or receive the same amount of public support.

[1] SO 2010, c 11

[2] General, O Reg 166/11

This paper is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This paper is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.


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