Phase 1: Identify, Confirm and Prepare Buildings to Develop and Implement Oasis
This section is for those who are seeking out a community in which to expand Oasis. There are three steps: 1. Collecting Demographic Data; 2. Contacting and Visiting Potential Oasis Expansion Sites; 3. Completing the Site Agreement and 4. Completing Required Building Renovations and Repairs. If you already have your community in mind, skip ahead to Phase 1, Step 3.
Step 1: Collect Demographic Data
The team’s first objective was to identify a list of buildings in each geographic location that would be suitable for the development and implementation of an Oasis program. Our team began with a series of data collected from the Canadian Census, with some additional information of primary care home visits. These data sets included the percentage of adults aged 55 years of age in a particular neighborhood, with also the consideration of the number of single-person households in an area, as well as education and income levels. Buildings which were identified had both high rates of adults aged 55 or older, as well as higher rates of home case visits.
Using this information as a basis, a list of buildings in each city was culled down to a smaller list of about 20 buildings. In early interviews exploring the program, Oasis members identified three key components beyond demographic characteristics that lend to fostering the Oasis program within a particular site: physical space, resident interest and location. Our Community Developers travelled to each of the 20 sites for in-person site visits to verify physical space requirements and to discuss with superintendents needs they have identified within their residents.
To summarize, buildings that were described as most promising for the Oasis program had:
a) A population of at least 35-40% older adults (55+), with 50% or more being an ideal percentage;
b) A shared common space or available space donated by the landlord to dedicate to Oasis activities and programming.
If you are looking to identify potential Oasis buildings in your local community, we suggest initially using Census data to determine which buildings or areas of town best fit the above criteria. Typically, specific building information is available on property management websites, listing common room availability, number of units, etc. If this information is not available, we recommend contact property managers and arranging building site visits in order to view the spaces, as detailed below.
Step 2 - Contact and Visit Potential Oasis Expansion Sites
A list of approximately 20 buildings were determined to be eligible for Oasis expansion based on the percentage of older adults living in them. The next step was to reach out to, and physically visit, each potential building. The teams’ Community Developers drove to each building to get an idea of the location within the city, as well as other factors such as: presence of common space, any clustering of buildings, accessibility features, and presence of onsite building staff. In addition, the research team contacted each property management company representing the 20 possible sites to provide more information about the Oasis program and to inquire whether the landlords would be interested in participating in the expansion project (see Appendix 1a).
Early on in the process, it became evident that a number of buildings on our demographic list were owned by Homestead. Because Oasis already had a working relationship with Homestead, we knew they were supportive of the program. We met with Homestead with a possible 4-5 buildings and they offered to donate space to Oasis in one of their buildings in Central Kingston, located near the original Oasis site.
A number of other landlords were contacted using the template letter, with mixed response. The primary concern of landlords was the lack of common space within the building, while other buildings already had the presence of a well-organized social committee with pre-existing daily activities, thus the need for an Oasis program was low. However, our team was able to reach out to four additional property management companies in order to pursue the expansion of Oasis. These companies had buildings with large populations of older adults, reasonably sized common spaces and active superintendents. Over four months, the research team met with each property management to explore the potential for the program and the dedication of the landlord to support it. In some cases, we had heard through word of mouth that residents in some of these buildings were interested in having an Oasis program; one particular building in the West End of Kingston had been trying to start their own Oasis for over a year. The research team met with a small group of residents prior to meeting with the landlord in order to ensure there was interest from the building as a whole. The landlord was aware that the residents were trying to start a program, but did not have the resources to assist in any way. Thus, it was serendipitous that we connected with this building who very clearly had a need and desire for the program. This was certainly a unique case; in most cases, we met first with the landlords to confirm the percentage of older adults and the space, and then gauged interested from residents themselves.
When viewing a building for a potential Oasis site, please consider the following:
- Common space, including size of the space, features (fridge, stove), accessibility and availability: in our experience, Oasis rooms should be able to hold at least 10 people comfortably. There should also be a publicly available washroom for the Coordinator and members to use during programming. Features like kitchenettes are not essential, but will be key in shaping what Oasis activities will look like. It is also important to have some flexibility in booking the common room – if there is too much already going on, there may not be space for Oasis activities to exist.
- Existing social committees or regular arranged activities for tenants: in some cases, tenants may feel their own activities are being threatened or there may not be enough interest for further additional activities. Space may also be a challenge if common spaces are already consistently being used by the building. This would become clearer in the next phase of hosting information session with building residents
- Landlord support: it is critical that the company or individual owner and onsite staff be supportive of the Oasis program. They do not have to take any additional steps in their day-to-day work, but assistance in booking the space, answering questions, and any other tasks are important for the program’s success. To clarify the each party’s role in Oasis, we recommend drafting a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU (explained in the following section).
Step 3 - Complete the Site Agreements
Day to day interactions with the property management companies following the initial meetings were minimal; landlord support and the roles of both the company and our research team were clearly laid out in a formal site agreement or MOU (see Appendix 1b). This agreement detailed the roles and expectations of each party during the timeline of the research project.
Landlords are expected to support the Oasis program and provide space for advertising of events and activities, but not responsible to ensuring the sustainability of any Oasis programming. The common room would be shared between the building and the Oasis program, with building-wide social events and revenue-generating events taking precedence over others. In this role, the landlords are responsible for the following:
o Provide Oasis with any guidelines or rules regarding the advertisement of events and activities
o Provide Oasis with an updated guideline of buildings codes and regulations
o Allow Oasis to reserve the building common space
o Allow Oasis to advertise events and activities in designated areas within the building
o Work collaboratively with the Oasis Coordinator to resolve any conflicts that may arise, including those related to scheduling or other
o Refer individuals interested in learning more about Oasis to the Oasis - Coordinator
o Maintain the Oasis space, in the same way as all common spaces in the building
The research team would book common room space with the superintendent, as would any group in the building and building rules are to be followed. In the case of dedicated rooms or spaces, the Oasis group would take responsibility for cleaning and maintaining the space. More details about what the site agreement includes can be found in the MOU. Furthermore, the main responsibility of the research team is to support the implementation of Oasis programming. In this role, the research team is responsible for the following:
o Facilitate all communication between Oasis sites during the implementation phases
o Seek out community providers and connect them to the Oasis for the purpose of organizing programming
o Support the purchase of equipment for Oasis programming, as required
o Provide landlords with detailed success measures for the Oasis program
o Provide landlords with a summary of data collected in apartment building
o Extend invitations to both Oasis and landlords to regular research meetings
o Reserve all common space with landlords, through the Superintendent
o Advertise events and activities only in designated spaces in the building
o Set up space prior to, and clean up space for all Oasis activities
o Provide landlords with a monthly calendar of ongoing activities
o Provide support and necessary requirements to ensure all members are able to participate in programming
o Provide information about its program to any interested individuals
o Not violate any building rules or codes while facilitating activities and events
o Notify the building Superintendent of any maintenance inquiries that relate directly to Oasis programming; Research team shall not represent members in individual tenancy issues
o Ensure the sustainability of their programming within the duration of the project.
This is an important step in the Oasis process as it clarifies some of the day-to-day workings of the program within the existing residence. While our MOU focused on the research project aspect, we highlight specifically the importance of Schedule A, which outlines the specific tasks and duties of both the Oasis members and the property manager or landlord.
Step 4 - Complete Required Building Renovations or Repairs
Any repairs or renovations were discussed between the property management companies and the research team. Most modifications were minimal; putting up a bulletin board for Oasis activities or creating a storage space to keep program materials. In other cases, the landlord was responsible for the complete renovations of a new space for the program, such as in the case of the MacDonald (see photos). We asked them to create a bare space so that Oasis members could participate in the decorating and furnishing of the space.
Rather than expressing rigid requirements for an Oasis space, our team worked to modify activities and programming based on available spaces. Some key needs from the space were a washroom, a sink, space for tables and chairs, outlets, and a storage closet or area for a cupboard. Otherwise, each Oasis group would have the creative opportunity to work within the liberties and confinements of each space. Once spaces were confirmed and ready to meet the needs of an Oasis program, it was time for the research team to move forward in engaging community groups and residents in order to get the program going.
We recommend meeting with the landlord prior to signing the MOU in order to outline the desired changes or modifications to the room. There may also be negotiations to what is provided and by whom: for example, Oasis may purchase its own bulletin board to post in the building, but the landlord may provide tables and chairs in the common space since they can be used by all tenants. Rooms will vary in how much equipment or resources they have, especially if you are starting with a brand new space. We suggest asking for donations from local community networks or even from members to save on some furnishing costs.