Phase 1: Identify, Confirm and Prepare Buildings to Develop and Implement Oasis

This section outlines the process of identifying an Oasis community. If you already have a community in mind, skip ahead to 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. 2016 Canadian Census data were used to identify dissemination areas (the smallest geographic unit within the census) with high older adult density in Kingston, London, Hamilton and Quinte West. Census tracts with a density of 25% or more adults aged 55 or older were characterized as high-density areas. Based on the dissemination area data, we compiled a list of 20 potential apartment buildings for each Ontario city. If available, home care data was reviewed to identify buildings with high home care service use. 

​Social structural conditions are known to impact both health and participation levels in older adults, so we also considered the Ontario Marginalization Index for the purpose of this project to ensure the inclusion of low, mid and high marginalization communities. This index is publicly available and consists of four dimensions: material deprivation, ethnic concentration, dependency and residential instability, which are combined for a total marginalization summary score.

​We also consulted Google Maps™ and Street View™ to describe surrounding environment of potential sites, i.e. public facilities, transportation routes, grocery stores, etc. that could support Oasis programming and activities. By compiling this additional information, we were able to better to understand the neighborhood of the buildings and resources that would be available to them.

Public Health Ontario’s social determinants of health map showing Material Deprivation quintiles for Kingston, ON

Additionally, in early interviews exploring the program, Oasis members identified key components beyond demographic characteristics that lend to fostering the Oasis program within a particular site: physical space and resident interest. These factors could not be explored through online investigation, which led us to the second step of our process. 

To sum, buildings that were described as most suitable for the Oasis program had:

  • ​A population of at least ≥25% older adults (55+);

  • A shared common space for Oasis activities and programming;

  • Resident interest in co-developing and attending programming.

Step 2: Contact and Visit Potential Oasis Expansion Sites

After we had described the 20 buildings on each list, we made plans to visit each site to view the facilities and meet with the building staff to learn more about the buildings. The teams’ Community Developers drove to each building to get an idea of the location within the city, as well as other factors that could not be gleaned from Google Maps, such as: the presence of common space in the building, 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 lists in Kingston and London were owned by Homestead Land Holdings Limited (a property management company). Because Oasis already had a working relationship with Homestead, we knew they were supportive of the program. We met with Homestead to explore 4-5 different 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 connect with four additional property management companies who were interested in being involved in 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 company to explore the potential for the program and the dedication of the landlord to support it. Because Oasis was well-known in Kingston, some communities there had heard of the program and were interested in starting their own; 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 to learn more about the work they had done and the interest their building had, followed by a meeting with landlord. The landlord was aware and supportive of the residents trying to start a program, but did not have the resources to assist them in its development. Thus, it was serendipitous that we identified a building who very clearly had a desire for Oasis and had been actively pursuing it. This was certainly a unique case; in most cases, we met first with the landlords to confirm the percentage of older adults and explore the space, and then gauged interest from residents themselves.

Based on our experience with the site visits, we recommend you consider the following when viewing a potential building and meeting with its staff:

 

  • Common space, including size of the space, features (fridge, stove), accessibility and availability: 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, either part of the communal space or nearby. Features like kitchenettes are not essential, but are 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, it may become difficult to schedule Oasis activities.

  • Existing social committees or regularly arranged activities for tenants: in some cases, tenants may feel their own activities are being threatened or there may not be enough interest for additional activities. Space may also be a challenge if common areas are already consistently being used by the building. Information about existing activities will become clearer after hosting information sessions with building residents (see Phase 2), if not provided by the building staff or superintendent.

  • 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 assume any additional responsibilities in their day-to-day work, but assistance in booking the space or answering questions about Oasis are important for the program’s success. To clarify each party’s role in Oasis, we recommend drafting a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU (more on this in the following section).

 
Step 3: Complete the Site Agreements

 

Following our initial meetings with the property management companies, the team developed formal site agreements or MOUs (see Appendix 1b) to clearly outline the landlord’s support and the roles of both the company and our research team. This agreement detailed the roles and expectations of each party for the duration of the research project.

 

An important thing to note: landlords are expected to support the Oasis program and provide space for advertising of events and activities in-kind. This in-kind space provision is important, because Oasis is a low-cost program for which members are only responsible for paying for costs associated with particular programs (i.e. meals, buying craft supplies); there are no membership fees included in the Oasis model. 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. While the landlord supports Oasis through the in-kind provision of space, they are not responsible for ensuring the sustainability of Oasis programming. In our MOUs, the landlords are responsible for the following:

 

  • Provide Oasis with any guidelines or rules regarding the advertisement of events and activities;

  • Provide Oasis with an updated guideline of buildings codes and regulations;

  • Allow Oasis to reserve the building common space;

  • Allow Oasis to advertise events and activities in designated areas within the building;

  • Work collaboratively with the Oasis Coordinator to resolve any conflicts that may arise, including those related to scheduling or other;

  • Refer individuals interested in learning more about Oasis to the Oasis On-site Coordinator;

  • 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 or building staff, as would any group in the building, and follow all building rules at all times. In the case of dedicated rooms or spaces, the Oasis group and Coordinator would take responsibility for cleaning and maintaining the space. The primary responsibility of the research team is to support the implementation of Oasis programming. As described in the MOU, the research team is responsible for the following:

 

  • Facilitate all communication between Oasis sites during the implementation phases;

  • Seek out community providers and connect them to the Oasis for the purpose of organizing programming;

  • Support the purchase of equipment for Oasis programming, as required;

  • Provide landlords with detailed success measures for the Oasis program;

  • Provide landlords with a summary of data collected in apartment building;

  • Extend invitations to both Oasis and landlords to regular research meetings;

  • Reserve all common space with landlords, through the Superintendent;

  • Advertise events and activities only in designated spaces in the building;

  • Set up space prior to, and clean up space for all Oasis activities;

  • Provide landlords with a monthly calendar of ongoing activities;

  • Provide support and necessary requirements to ensure all members are able to participate in programming;

  • Provide information about its program to any interested individuals;

  • Not violate any building rules or codes while facilitating activities and events;

  • Notify the building Superintendent of any maintenance inquiries that relate directly to Oasis programming; Research team shall not represent members in individual tenancy issues;

  • Ensure the sustainability of their programming within the duration of the project.

 

The MOU 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 aspects of the research project, we direct you to Schedule A within the MOU. Schedule A outlines the specific tasks and duties of both the Oasis members and the property manager or landlord and could be used in any community setting, regardless of involvement by a research team. 

 

Step 4: Complete Required Building Renovations or Repairs

 

Any repairs or renovations were discussed by the property management companies and the research team. Most modifications were minimal; for example, putting up a bulletin board for Oasis activities in a common space to remind members of activities, and, when possible, storage space for program materials. In one case, the landlord graciously donated a dedicated Oasis space and was responsible for its renovation (see photos). We requested that Oasis members could decorate and furnish the space as they wished.

Dedicated Oasis Lounge in Kingston, renovated December 2019

Rather than expressing rigid requirements for an Oasis space, our team worked to modify activities and programming based on whatever space the landlord made available to us. Some key needs of the space were a washroom, a sink, space for tables and chairs, wall 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. While spaces were confirmed and prepared to meet the needs of an Oasis program, the research team moved 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 determine 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.

Phase 1 Key Take-Aways:

  • Buildings that are best suited for Oasis are those with 1) a high proportion of older adult residents (≥ 25%), 2) communal space available for programming 3) landlord support and 4) interested residents

  • When you visit a potential building, look at the communal space to see what is available, ask about existing programming and confirm the landlord is supportive of an Oasis program

  • Create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between all involved parties to clearly outline expectations and roles from the outset of development

  • Get creative with the space available for use, but make sure it is adequate in size and has the basic amenities to run group gatherings

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Oasis Lounge Jan 2020