Skip to main content

Creating affordable and supportive housing strategies for seniors

Even as Canada’s senior population continues to grow, they remain underserved by the health care system. One organization knows it takes a village to care for that community—see how they’re bridging the gap with innovation.

On this episode of Boldly, Dr. John Joanisse speaks with Dr. Clare Liddy and Amy Porteous from Bruyère. Together, they discuss the challenges involved in senior care and how they are working to overcome them with their initiatives―the Champlain BASETM eConsult Service and Bruyère Village.

To better care for the ever-growing elderly population, Porteous and Dr. Liddy explain why there was a need to create a new innovative care model, Bruyère Village. They sought to tackle senior care affordability and create community through a space that prioritizes quality of life.

Dr. Liddy, a family physician interested in system-level change, shares another thriving initiative which began as a study project: eConsult. This service helps family physicians like Dr. Liddy get advice from a specialist electronically to prevent unnecessary visits—which often means exorbitant wait times and challenging travel for seniors.

What makes these initiatives exceptional? Listen to find out.

tweetable: “We recognized that within the city, there was a real lack of affordable and supportive housing for seniors.”

Key takeaways

What is Bruyère Village, and what makes it innovative?

  • The initiative began because there was a real need to change senior care in Canada.
  • Challenges included affordability and long wait lists for the few options that were covered by public health care.
  • The Village is a bilingual seniors’ community in Ottawa with a variety of accommodations, services and support—ranging from independent living to long-term care.
  • As the needs of the individual change, they can shift.
tweetable: “[There are] lots of options out there for individuals who have the ability to pay.”

How does loneliness affect the elderly population?

  • Every person requires social interaction. For many seniors, this is a challenge.
  • Keeping people socialized and engaged is a huge priority with the Village.
  • Residents there have many areas to gather: a space to play cards and games, a pub, a kitchen area, a gym, a community room, etc..
tweetable: “As an organization, one of our mandates is to be champions of ageing Canadians and we recognized that this was a real hole.”

What type of care does the Village provide?

  • There is 24/7 emergency coverage for all residents.
  • Personal Support Workers and Developmental Support Workers are available as well.
tweetable: “Many people will live well into their older age, and they will live well.”

What are the financial benefits?

  • In a hospital, the approximate cost for care is around $1,000 per day.
  • In a rehab facility, it’s $550-$650 per day.
  • For most long-term care facilities, the cost is $150-$175 per day.
  • Those in The Village get assisted living services for as little as $55 per day.
  • Economically, it makes sense to help people be in the right place, at the right time.
tweetable: “You can see from an economic perspective why it makes so much sense to make sure that we’re providing care to people in the right place at the right time.”

Switching gears, what is eConsult?

  • To address the extensive wait times to access specialist services, Dr. Liddy spearheaded the eConsult service.
  • It allows family doctors to gain rapid access to specialist advice electronically.
  • The service operates through a secure online portal where doctors can attach videos, images, files from medical records and ask questions.
  • Doctors then get advice from a specialist tailored to their particular patient’s case. The average response time is within two days, making it a much faster communication pathway.
  • Many people don’t end up needing a face-to-face visit with a specialist, which saves time and avoids the hassle of transportation.
  • Long-term care is one, but not the only area to benefit from this service.
tweetable: “We’re trying to really improve the efficiency… We’ve avoided up to 40% of face to face visits through this…”

How did this study project get so far?

  • Dr. Liddy began with an innovation grant in 2009.
  • The Bruyère Research Institute continued to support the project.
  • The preliminary results were promising so they expanded.
  • They have now formed partnerships to help spread and scale the project.
tweetable: “I believe that there’s a variety of solutions that are required to be able to address our alternate level of care challenges right now within the system.”

Recommended resources

Making a difference in our Francophone communities: Meet Dr. John Joanisse, a news article about Dr. Joanisse

Not your great-grandma's nursing home: Innovations in seniors' living, an Ottawa Citizen article about the Bruyère Village

Liddy and Keely: Let's get good health-care ideas beyond the 'pilot' phase, an Ottawa Citizen article featuring Dr. Clare Liddy

Laughing over spilled Jell-O: a radical prescription for loneliness in seniors, a White Coat, Black Art podcast by CBC about strategies to tackle loneliness

A made-in-Ottawa solution to get around long wait times to see medical specialists, an Ottawa Citizen article about eConsult

Dr. Clare Liddy: Accelerating seniors’ access to specialists, a CMA article about eConsult

How to integrate virtual care solutions within your practice, a Boldly article


Never miss an episode by subscribing on SoundCloudiTunes and Spotify.

Are you making waves in innovation or have a bold idea to share? We would love to hear your story. Connect with us at to have your thoughts featured in a future podcast.


The opinions stated by podcast participants are made in a personal capacity and do not reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries, including Joule. Joule does not endorse any views, product, service, association, company or industry mentioned in this podcast.