As We Start Calculating The Impact Of Covid-19, The Failure Of Government To Care For Its Senior Citizens Becomes Apparent

COVID-19 & Toronto Real Estate

Welcome to the blog that explores housing, culture, and design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada! I’m Steve Fudge and I’m celebrating my 31st year as a realtor and property consultant in Toronto, Ontario,

In 2023’s first installment of Dear Urbaneer – my monthly post that answers a topical real estate query – I offered guidance to a family helping their parents downsize from their residence of almost 40 years into a retirement home. The post, called What Is The Best Process For My Elderly Parents To Downsize And Sell Their House? explored a number of factors to consider, ranging from the process of how best to downsize, as well as the implications of selling their property now or holding onto it as a source of revenue.

While I was writing that post – which includes sharing the journey of my own Auntie’s transition from living independently in her own condominium to moving into Assisted Living during the pandemic – I realized that the impact of this coronavirus has been particularly cruel to the elderly and that the inaction of the Ontario government to adopt new standards that respond to our current changing environment signals the province is no longer making the safety and security of its residents a priority.  This realization crushed my spirit.



Covid-19 & Seniors

As I learned first-hand through my family’s experience, a senior downsizing is often but not always initiated either as a proactive measure to preserve and protect financial well-being, or the result of changes in physical or mental health. While the issue of finances tends to be personal in nature – the real pandemic elephant in the room right now which has not garnered as much attention as one might hope – is that Covid-19 became, and remains, an immediate high-risk threat to the health and well-being of seniors. In fact, in 2020 it became the third leading cause of death in Canada.

Today, as we approach our fourth year since Covid-19 prompted lockdowns in Canada two of the five different variants of concern have become more transmissible than the original version of the virus, and three of the variants each have mutations that may have an impact on vaccine effectiveness. And, as of January 30th, 2023,  79% of Covid deaths in Canada have been people 70 years or older, even though this demographic accounts for just 12.9% of the total number of Covid cases in Canada.

While the pandemic shone a light on the unwavering commitment of essential and front-line workers pivoting amidst complexities and conditions they never anticipated nor wanted so most of us could stay sequestered in the comfort of our homes (I genuinely thank every essential and front-line worker for your grace in giving), the media’s focus was primarily about the government’s action plan, the daily data of hospitalizations and deaths, the stresses being put on Canada’s health systems, the efforts to develop and roll out a vaccine, the cooperation and compliance required by Canadians and, quite early in the crisis, how vulnerable residents of long-term care facilities were (with a smattering of coverage about housing other populations in need, like the immunocompromised and the homeless).

Just two months into lockdown in May 2020 it prompted me to write With COVID-19 Outbreaks In Long-Term Care Facilities, Is Multi-Generational Housing Better? because clearly there were problems.

On April 11, 2022, the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021 (FLTCA) was proclaimed into force to regulate Ontario’s long-term care home sector. The main changes addressed requirements “related to staffing and care, accountability and transparency, enforcement, and licensing which may be relevant to members who work for or operate Long-Term Care Homes.” Without question, this is really important stuff, but I also think the pandemic presented by necessity a reexamination of how we design, engineer, and construct our buildings. After all, just 4 months after Canada went into lockdown the World Health Organization Identified The Possibility Of Airborne Transmission Of COVID-19 through HVAC Systems. Subsequent research verified this.

Because most modern office buildings and shopping malls have one centralized ventilation system distributing and recycling air through its ductwork, one elevator for every 50,000 square feet of interior space, and rarely any operable windows, determining how to best mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus in these sealed complexes became a priority. In the United States, scientists collaborated and recommended to their government to mandate the installation of high-efficiency particulate air filters in the 13-to-16 MERV range – which is often used in hospitals and research labs – because they’re capable of trapping the virus that causes Covid-19. I share this to illustrate that as we discover the apparent limitations of our existing built environments, I believe governments have a responsibility to disseminate information like this, or even better yet mandate the use of particulate air filters moving forward. Why not incorporate these kinds of necessary solutions into the Ontario Building Code to ensure new construction protects future occupants from environmental risks?

I mention the Building Code because it’s an effective efficient means to implement and regulate the construction of healthy, safe, sustainable structures here in Ontario. The Ontario Building Code – a regulation under the Building Code Act, 1992 – details the “technical and administrative requirements and minimum standards for building construction in order to promote public health and safety, fire protection, resource conservation, environmental integrity, and accessibility. Its purpose is the promotion of public safety through the application of uniform building standards”. The Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is responsible for the development of and the amendments to the Building Code Act and the Code itself.

I’ve never understood why governments eagerly spend huge sums of money to research an issue of great importance to taxpaying voters and then upon receiving the report become non-commital enacting any of its findings. It’s ineffective, fiscally irresponsible, and smacks of bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake.

Recently, on January 31st, 2023, “The Health Standards Organization (HSO) published 60 pages of comprehensive standards, to complement the release of 15 pages of standards from the Canadian Standards Association Group (CSA) in December” providing a comprehensive 75-page list of new standards for Long Term Care Homes to serve as a resource for “operational staff, infection prevention, and control personnel, directors of care, architects, designers, engineers, governmental bodies, LTCH associations, residents, families, and caregivers”. It was also disclosed at that time that complying with these new standards is completely voluntary, as reported in CBC’s “New Voluntary Standards Released For Long-Term Care Homes Devastated By The Pandemic“.

Seriously. Voluntary?

The Health Standards Organization and the Canadian Standards Association Group have earned a standing ovation from me for creating a document that outlines many of the factors that need to be considered for Long Term Care Homes today. But it didn’t go far enough, because it didn’t address how we can make our built environments ‘new and improved’ to respond to the changing conditions of a climate crisis (of which Covid-19 is surely a byproduct).

Nevertheless, a 75-page document now exists that identifies all the standards that serve as the baseline from which long-term care homes can be measured. If the government’s goal is to reduce the quantifiable hospitalizations and deaths that resulted from elderly Canadians being collectively housed under the roof of a long-term care facility, the next step surely should be analyzing what changes can be made to the space plan, operating systems, and construction materials to make long-term care homes safe, right?

However, a more immediate question burning on my lips is who in the positions of power made the executive decisions that these new standards should only be voluntary? And why did they not even suggest that these standards be adopted in due course, like when new long-term care homes are being constructed or existing near-obsolete ones require substantial renovation? Or propose solutions to facilitate their creation such as subsidies or low-interest loans from the provincial government?

Instead, the announcement of this report included the statement that these standards would only be voluntary without any effort to offer an action plan for a calamity that is neither the first of its kind nor the last. Are specific government officials deciding that the expense to implement these standards has been deemed more costly than the value of all the lives we’ve just lost, and every life we lose to Covid-19 in long-term care homes moving forward?

If you’re a follower of my blog, you know I subscribe to the belief that housing should be a right and not a privilege. I also believe Canada should have a universal income. So from the lens by which I view the world I’m troubled by this news because all three layers of government are championing their commitment to fixing our housing crisis by increasing its supply, but this unwillingness to enact a new set of standards to meet the conditions of a changing environment that has resulted in this global health crisis puts profits ahead of people. And if we do not legislate standards that make the basic foundation of a shelter physiologically safe and secure for citizens according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, then even the privileged are now at risk.


How strange to be a senior living in a time when a virus that wasn’t here three years ago now has a target on your back, and instead of your country demonstrating how genuinely committed it is to your long-term care, refuses to mandate standards to keep you and your generation safe and secure in old age. And how bizarre for younger Canadians to know that our elderly at-risk populations are now even less secure and more vulnerable than pre-pandemic and that one day – if they survive to the age of 70 or so – they may have no choice but to move into a shelter that increases their risk of illness and death. To consider this acceptable makes me feel like I’m disrespecting my elders while gambling with my future. And, well, it seems very un-Canadian.

If you’ve never been in a pandemic how could you possibly know how it will play out? Governments around the globe only had time to react to the arrival and spread of the coronavirus, and their priority was isolating and containing it. As long-term care homes became ground zeros, the government quickly mandated the messaging of isolation first, and social distancing second, informing us that the larger the group and the closer they congregated the greater the likelihood of transmission. The government also assigned us individual agency and social responsibility, and for the elderly and immunocompromised this meant going inside, locking their doors, and engaging with as few people as possible until it passed.

They’ve been doing this for 3 years.


Research suggests that strong social ties are linked to a longer life, while loneliness and social isolation are linked to poorer health, depression, an increased risk of dementia, and early death. Studies show that having a variety of social relationships may help reduce stress and heart-related risks.  My Auntie, who lives in Victoria, B.C. near the rest of my family, and who is now 90 years old, endured the pandemic in a manner quite typical for many seniors. Pre-pandemic, Auntie was a spry lawn-bowling champion, a choir singing soloist, and a busy textile artist surrounded by a terrific group of friends. But once lockdown was implemented, she – like most seniors – took the pandemic very seriously, followed all the precautionary measures, and sheltered herself from the world at large. And so did her friends. The result of this, like many single-person households, was that her once physically active and socially engaged daily life unwittingly slipped into a holding pattern of sedentary solitary confinement.  And the degree to which it impacted her, and everyone else’s mental, emotional, and physical health was left unchecked and undiagnosed. In Auntie’s situation, six months after the pandemic was declared she went to a Health Centre and told the staff she thought she was having a heart attack. After their preliminary consultation, they told her that her symptoms didn’t align with what constituted a heart attack and they promptly sent her home (Did you know heart attack symptoms go unrecognized in 53% of women?). Six months after that, the pains she experienced the first time returned with more intensity, prompting her to call 911. The paramedics rushed her to the hospital, where she lay on a stretcher for 12 hours in the hospital corridor before they conducted tests and confirmed she was suffering a serious heart attack (with indicators signaling earlier heart issues – hello!). The prognosis resulted in an immediate angioplasty with 2 stents.

In a span of 18 months, my Aunt went from a vibrant happy independent person to a frail immobile medicated survivor of 2 heart attacks requiring care. Inherently frugal, and not wanting to be a burden, which was both her show of resilience and the default state of survivors who experience the trauma of war, Auntie was extremely resistant to our hiring care. And even though my family stepped up to be there for her as much as they could, they weren’t in the position to become her full-time caregivers. This was the first of many moments to come that I suspect are challenging for most families. The matriarch or patriarch states their position and, in the hierarchy of most families, that individual’s decision reins supreme and goes unchallenged out of duty or respect.

But in tenuous situations typically involving health and well-being, there comes a moment where that decision is overridden. And in my Aunt’s case, despite her protestation over Facetime and my pleas for her to be rational, realistic, and receptive to letting us fast-track her recovery by hiring professional care, I made the decision with the support of my family to engage a reputable firm to assist care for her as she mended. To this day I still believe this was the right decision and the correct thing to do, but when I told her this I also saw my Aunt’s heartbreak realizing she no longer had agency in her own life, even though I suspect deep down she also knew that living independently was no longer sustainable. That night I cried for her, for myself, and for being at that intersection of our lives where I had to crush her pride in order to help her heal. Auntie came to appreciate the company of the nurses and the rituals of their visits, who I believe helped her see that her living conditions were unsustainable, but I’m not sure she ever forgave me. But as she tasked herself to heal, regain her mobility, and recover as much of her previous self as possible,  I think she realized she would get there sooner if she moved into Assisted Living.

As an empath who intuitively guides people to the place where they belong, I want to be candid and let you know that downsizing and moving to the next chapter will,  at times, be emotionally charged, mentally taxing, and physically exhausting for everyone involved.

And when you are tasked with making the hard decisions, that are necessary – but profoundly unwanted by everyone involved – it’s even more challenging.

And I’m not writing this solely for dramatic effect, but because moving is really stressful at the best of times. When it’s mired in the fear of change, stuck with the resistance of letting go, or suspended in the in-between of facing loss it can become very complicated. Be assured my success as a realtor is not limited to my multi-disciplinary education in housing and home, nor my 3 decades of experience in the trade of real estate, but because I have been witness to the human condition as it transitions out of one place to another. And after helping hundreds of households, I am well-equipped to help ground almost every situation.

I close most of my posts with a reminder that I am here to help. And I really am. To help you find the home you need and support you through that process – no matter what the transition is. Sometimes all you need is to know that someone else gets it – and gets you – and there is grace in lending a hand – or a shoulder – or a hug – in the process.





Want to voice your concern?

Consider emailing Stephen J. Clark – the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario – the following note to :

Good Day Minister Clark,

My name is _______. Like many Canadians, I was surprised that the release and publication of the new recommended standards by the Health Standards Organization and CSA Group (CAN/HSO 21001:2023 Long-Term Care Services and CSA Z8004:22 Long-Term Care Home Operations and Infection Prevention and Contro) included the announcement that compliance with these standards is only voluntary.

Might you kindly provide the reasons why no effort is being made to analyze the construction and design of existing long-term care homes to determine how their built form may be facilitating the spread of Covid-19 to the detriment of workers and residents? The Coronavirus has shed a light on how unsuitable our existing long-term care homes are, such that we should use the new standards as the basis for exploring and improving our existing design and construction programs. Furthermore, at the conclusion of such research, there would be merit in incorporating the critical information into the Ontario Building Code, given it “details the technical and administrative requirements and minimum standards for building construction in order to promote public health and safety & environmental integrity.” If the design, engineering, and construction standards of buildings (and, in particular, long-term care homes) identified were incorporated into the Ontario Building Code it could mitigate the spread of viruses like Covid-19 which would reduce the impact on our health care services, and provide existing and future long-term care residents (and, in fact, anyone who makes Ontario their home) assurance of their provincial government’s commitment to invest in the health, well-being, and survival of its population (and in the case of long-term care homes, the most vulnerable of our residents, of whom many have spent their lives contributing to making Ontario a better place for future generations).
I look forward to your reply.
Sincerely & With Thanks,

Your Name Here


As we continue to navigate the pandemic, you may find these other posts about Covid-19 offer you additional insights and guidance:

How Canada’s 3 Levels Of Government Shape Housing Policy & Programs

With COVID-19 Outbreaks In Long-Term Care Facilities, Is Multi-Generational Housing Better?

Healthy Home: The Irony Of Navigating COVID-19 On The 50th Anniversary Of Earth Day

The Role Of Fiscal Stimulus During COVID-19 And Toronto Real Estate

Dear Urbaneer: How Can I Feel More Comfortable At Home During Self-Isolation & COVID-19?

WHO Changes Guidance On Possibility Of Airborne Transmission Of COVID-19

How COVID-19 Will Likely Change How We Design Our Homes

Exploring COVID-19, Urban Planning And Toronto Real Estate

How Lessons Learned From COVID-19 Will Change Urban Planning & High-Density Living

The Increased Desire For Outdoor Space In Toronto Condos During The Covid-19 Pandemic

The Movement To Hipsteading During The Covid-19 Pandemic & Toronto Real Estate

Post-Pandemic Housing Trends To Watch For

Making Housing Affordable: When Hotels & SRO’s Were Homes



Serving first and second-time buyers, relocations, renovators, and those building their long-term property portfolios, my mandate is to help clients choose the property which will realize the highest future return on their investment while ensuring the property best serves their practical needs and their dream of “Home” during their ownership. At Urbaneer, my team and I identify a property’s best qualities, features, and insouciant charm in the context of your wishes and wants, plus your future target market. Although searching for the right property can be an intense and sometimes lengthy process it is, without fail, rewarding both to our clients and the Urbaneer team. Now in our 30th year, we are grateful to be the realtor of choice for both established Torontonians, and the newly arrived.

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Thanks for reading!


-The Urbaneer Team

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-800


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