Spotlight – Unitarian House provides a security blanket of supportive care

For Alice Bushe, Past President of Residents’ Association, living at Unitarian House amounts to being wrapped in a security blanket. “It’s important to have a sense that you are a part of a community,” she says, “and here this sense of community is palpable.” Bushe nominated Unitarian House to be recognized as an age-friendly business by the Council on Aging of Ottawa because she feels It is a community that allows for aging in place.

Bushe, who lives in one of the 68 apartments at Unitarian House is particularly grateful for the care and support the community provided to her while recovering from hip replacement surgery. Neighbours looked in on her to bring her meals and check on her needs. She also had the reassurance of knowing she could call on the 24/7 nursing care available to residents on the retirement floor below. This saved her a trip to an emergency department when her blood thinner medication caused overnight nosebleeds.

Providing 24/7 emergency care is just one example of how, over the last 33 years, the not-for-profit housing community of Unitarian House, has continuingly adapted to accommodate the changing needs of residents, allowing them to age in place.

Residents can have blood work done on site, and those with mobility issues welcome a regular exercise program. There is also an in-house geriatric psychiatrist.

Part of creating a safe environment for residents is knowing the limits of what the facility can do. To ensure safe returns from hospital stays and eliminate the need for readmissions , Executive Director Christina O’Neil says” Unitarian House has made it a policy not to accept hospital discharges on Fridays, because it’s not always possible to guarantee that follow up and support services can be put in place on weekends.”

Nadene Keon, Director of Care ad Resident Services and the staff educate residents to take charge of their health, letting them know what their rights are, and encouraging them to be their own advocates. “When people see their doctors they are supposed to talk about just one health issue and do it in 15 minutes,” says Keon. “We encourage residents to speak up when they think they need more time. We also have them list all their health concerns, and then have the doctor pick what they consider the top priority to be addressed during a visit.”

There is an informal buddy system of neighbours checking in on each other, taking note of changes in appearance or behaviour that might signal a possible health issue that requires alerting staff.
Electric doors and raised garden planters are features geared to the more than 50% of the retirement floor residents who use walkers. Community members stay physically active and mentally engaged by participating in a choir, art classes, health and financial clinics, and community fundraisers.
It is an empowering community. Nadene Keon explains that for everyone who lives at Unitarian House,” it’s not about how old you are, but who you are, and what your goals are. “Executive Director Christina O’Neil stresses that respecting individuals and their goals” is all about being happy and healthy and that families are included in care planning. It’s like an old-fashioned neighbourhood – if you want a barn, we’ll build it –together”.

For more information about Unitarian House, available accommodations,or to book a tour of the Retirement Floor please contact Jessica at 613-722-6690 or e-mail

To find out more about Age-Friendly Ottawa and how you too can nominate a business, or become recognized as an age-friendly business, go to our Invitation to Seniors or contact