Seniors’ housing options in the Comox Valley

By Valerie
October 17, 2010

It’s time to finish up the “Seniors Housing” series by reviewing options in the Comox Valley.

The Comox Valley has a variety of housing choices depending on care needs and available monthly income.

Independent Living or Retirement communities or housing geared at seniors (usually 55 years and over) are intended for seniors who do not require onsite services.

Seniors can continue to live independently and arrange privately to have services such as Meals on Wheels and home support delivered directly. Seniors may also receive services provided by their local health authority.

Housing options include condominiums, townhouses, patio homes, rental apartments and income-assisted apartments. Income-assisted apartments require an application and there are often waitlists. The Housing Registry is a publication through BC Housing with a list of all income-assisted housing options for seniors. The Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program helps make rents affordable for BC seniors with low to moderate incomes. For more information on both options, visit BC Housing at or call 1-800-257-7756.

Supportive Housing is designed to assist seniors in remaining independent longer and include a combination of on-site support services, sometimes referred to as hospitality services or personal assistance. The support services package will include:

• At least one main meal per day (lunch or dinner)
• 24-hour emergency response
• Weekly light housekeeping
• Once weekly laundering of towels and linens
• Social and recreational activities

Any health-related services are delivered by the local health authority or by private health providers just as they would be to any other individuals living independently in the community.

Typically, this option is not subsidized and options include Berwick Retirement Communities, Comox Valley Seniors Village, Stevenson Place and Abbeyfield House.

The easiest way to describe Assisted Living is housing that includes the services listed above for Supportive Housing with additional help with personal care needs such as bathing or taking medications. Assisted Living is available with or without subsidies.

Publicly funded Assisted Living units are in very high demand and typically there is a waitlist. Access to subsidized Assisted Living is based on the urgency of an individual’s care needs. Criterion for acceptance includes an assessment by an Island Health Authority case manager. Typically individuals need to be considered at risk in their current housing as well as require personal assistance. Home support service needs to be in place for 3 months before a client can be waitlisted for a subsidized suite.

For more information on subsidized Assisted Living call 250-331-8570 or toll-free at 1-866-928-4988. Visit for more information on Home and Community Care and publicly funded housing options.

Residential Care (or Complex Care) provides 24-hour skilled nursing care and supervision for people who have complex health needs. Staff members administer medications and assist residents with daily activities such as eating, bathing and dressing.

Eligibility for a government subsidized Residential Care facility is determined by a case manager from Island Health Authority. Those assessed as having the greatest need are given priority for admission to the first available and appropriate bed. Cost is a daily rate based on 80% of a senior’s income. There are also private Residential Care facilities where no subsidies are available including Comox Valley Seniors Village and Cummings Home.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.


Helpful Videos

Caregiver Consultations: How We Help Frail Elderly Parents

Long Distance Caregiving

“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC