According to statistics from the Canadian government in 2016, 16.9% of Canadians were aged 65 years or older, and 2.2% were aged 85 years or older, representing a 20% increase in these age groups since 2011. The segment of the Canadian population aged 65 years and older is expected to increase to 20.0% by 2024, raising concerns about where these seniors will live and who will care for them.
While some see these statistics as a warning sign, one heart-centered real estate developer with a passion for social transformation sees an opportunity.
“We’re trying to create a better and a new way of living,” says Candy Ho, co-founder of Element Lifestyle Retirement in Vancouver, British Columbia. Ho is a leader in the “Intergenerational Aging in Place” movement and has been in the retirement industry for half her life. Her reputation as an innovator has sparked change and inspired the industry across Canada and all the way to Australia, winning her company an international award in stiff competition from over 950 retirement projects assessed worldwide.
Those who know Candy Ho know that she has always had a passion for helping others and for giving back to her community. Originally on track to become a doctor, she decided instead to follow in her father’s footsteps as a real estate developer. “As a physician, I felt like I could only do so much good. But I learned from my father to see into the future, to have a vision for something that doesn’t exist,” Ho explains. “He taught me that it’s about doing the right thing.”
That vision of a better future for seniors and their families enabled Ho to have an even greater impact as an agent of social transformation.
But there is a personal motivation as well. Ho’s mother has Parkinson’s disease.
That made Ho think about the kind of retirement community she would like her parents to live in. She realized that traditional retirement communities tended to separate, rather than unite, family members. “That’s when I realized that intergenerational communities help everyone stay connected to younger, vibrant energy, instead of being surrounded by suffering and feeling stigmatized in a home with a label that says they’re old and needy,” Ho says.
Thanks to Ho’s tireless efforts, her vision is spreading across the globe. Other retirement communities now look at Ho’s model to come up with their own version of intergenerational living. Ho and other industry leaders are advocating for seniors and their families at the municipal, provincial, and federal level to overcome restrictive government regulations.
Now that she has successfully ignited further innovation in the retirement industry, Ho has shifted her attention to leading a project she has dedicated herself to for 15 years: The Cape on Bowen, a 618-acre southwestern waterfront development on the only island within Metro Vancouver. As CEO of this development, her mission is to create a legacy community with a long-term vision that is to become a role model for the world in terms of balanced socio-economic-environmental sustainability.
For this to happen, Ho is committing to deep community engagement and collaboration for a better future. Both her enthusiasm and her energy are apparent as she paints a mental picture of what she sees: “Diverse forms of housing, including ownership, long-term rentals and co-living; community gardens, farms and orchards; a charming pedestrian-oriented arts, culture and retail village; a network of contiguous trails and wildlife habitat; an adventure waterfront park; an International Baccalaureate secondary school, and an international retreat and resort for mindful leadership and holistic healing,” Ho explains with excitement.
In addition to the legacy island development, her other big venture will be wellness communities, with a mission to shift society’s collective consciousness towards mindfulness, compassion, peace and integrity. “I want to cultivate meaningful connection and encourage people to take a proactive approach to holistic wellness and purposeful living,” Ho says.
While social transformation is her underlying motivation, Ho isn’t shy to say that she recognizes the tremendous business potential for creating communities centered around mindfulness and meditation. “I believe that when your heart is in the right place and you do something that the world needs, abundance follows naturally. That abundance allows you to sustain and grow your impact.”
For Ho, her greatest positive energy comes from contributing to society through her daily work and visionary projects. “My biggest passion is to overcome the status quo and positively transform the world through open-minded and open-hearted collaboration within the community to harness the power of unity,” Ho explains.
Candy Ho is CEO of The Cape on Bowen and co-founder and vice president of Element Lifestyle Retirement. She is a director on the boards of the B.C. Senior Living Association and the B.C. Heart & Stroke Foundation.