Lilllian McMullin, seen here with her husband Robert, has been the Travel Convenor for Port Union Seniors since 2010.
By Kathryn Stocks
Lillian McMullin is a dynamic 82-year-old with sparkling eyes and a personality to match. But she wasn’t interested in talking about herself. What she really wanted to discuss was housing and travel for seniors.
When Lillian and her husband, Robert, bought their one-year-old house in West Rouge in 1988, the new subdivision had a spot for seniors’ housing in the plan. “It was right on Lawrence Ave,” she said, “on the north side near the ravine where those townhouses are now.” At the time, however, she was busy with their three children, work and other things, and she put it aside until about 2015.
Then she started to wonder where people were going to live if they hoped to stay in the community when it was time to downsize. Many people her age have lost their spouse and no longer need or want a large home. She feels that seniors have been neglected in this area.
Lillian has done a lot of research on the topic and she said the missing accommodation is independent rental buildings for those 55 and older. “What Pickering, Ajax and Oshawa all have is an in-between situation that is not a VIVA, Chartwell or any of that,” she said. “They are adult lifestyle apartment buildings.”
She’s been talking to local politicians about housing for seniors since 2017, but nothing has changed so far. She knows that VIVA will build a retirement community on the former Legion property on Lawson after getting approvals from the city to go ahead. But that’s a different kind of place. Lillian and Robert want to live independently and prepare their own meals for as long as they can.
A few years ago, she pushed local politicians for seniors’ rental apartments to be built at Island Rd. and Port Union, but town houses were built there instead. Many people who are living in houses like hers do not want to buy again, she said. They don’t want condos. They want to sell their homes, move into a rental buildings, and just live comfortably.
Lillian said there are a lot of single people sitting in houses by themselves right now. “Their income is cut and their cost of living has doubled in the last 15 years. Even if they own it, they have to pay for heat, hydro, buy groceries, have upkeep, etc. It doesn’t leave them very much money to have any fun with.”
She pointed out that building these places for seniors would help with today’s housing crunch because when older adults move out of their houses, younger families move in. And that benefits local schools, services, and the whole community.
Right now Lillian has her eye on the Wellings of Whitby, a seniors’ apartment that looks promising. It’s further away than she’d like to be, but it’s what she’ll be looking for when she and Robert can no longer stay in their house.
Unfortunately, senior housing is a topic that has failed to take off in this community. “I don’t see why we can’t have something here,” she said. “We aren’t asking for the government to subsidize anything.”
Lillian’s other passion is travel for seniors. Since 2010 she has been the Travel Convenor for the Port Union Seniors group. Ninety percent of her trips are day excursions because they’re more affordable. This past summer they had a day cruise on Lake Rosseau. “It was a gorgeous day and the bus was full,” she said.
“We have a great program! I already have five theatres booked for 2023. We have a lot of fun!” On the bus, they play games like trivia and Bingo, listen to music and sing. “That’s why it’s become so popular at Port Union. We don’t restrict membership and we don’t restrict age.”
You can find out more about these trips at the Port Union Community Centre. And if you’d like to contact Lillian, she can be reached at email@example.com