Can your home age as gracefully as you?
By Andria Cowan Molyneaux
It’s sad but true, however diligent we may be, we will never be able to stop the steady march of time. We may try to slow its approach by way of exercise, expensive spa treatments, and healthy eating habits, but can our home help us to gracefully defy the aging process? The answer is yes, but it requires a better understanding of baby boomers, aging in place and universal design.
If you were born between 1947 and 1966, you would be classified as a baby boomer. In general terms, baby boomers are healthier than their parents, more active, have fewer children, are better educated, and are more likely to own their home. Reflecting upon this hard earned independence, the Canadian Mortgage And Housing Corporation (CMHC) considers you a prime candidate for aging in place.
Aging in place is a lifestyle choice. For some it means living in a cherished family home that they have happily lived in for many years. For others, it may mean downsizing and living in a home that is more manageable, allowing the owner to spend more time travelling or enjoying the freedom of retirement. As the term suggests, aging in place, means enabling the homeowner to live independently in their home.
In fact, according to the CMHC, approximately 85 per cent of Canadians over the age of 55 wish to remain in their present homes. Therefore, meeting the demands of this growing baby boomer population will require homeowners to think forward, and to adapt their homes so that they can live independently, and gracefully in their homes.
As a growing demographic, there are many reasons why baby boomers choose to live independently in their homes. You may be working beyond the age of retirement, and living in your home helps you to manage your income or debt. You may live in a pedestrian friendly community, which gives you convenient access to grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors and banks. Or, you may have family and friends that live near by. Whatever your reason is for aging in place, there is nothing more comforting than the familiarity of living in our your own home.
Living independently requires us to do something that we are not very good at, which is to plan for the future. Think of it this way: as a consumer we do not think twice about investing in health and beauty treatments, but do we invest the same time and money in planning for our future so that we can age gracefully in our own homes? The answer is no, and we have to change our mindset to successfully age in place.
According to the Government of Canada, the key to successful planning for the future lies in determining how we want to live tomorrow. To plan ahead, means to think about how we want to live, and what we need to do to achieve that lifestyle. An important aspect of planning for your independence lies in assessing your home to see if it will meet with your needs now and into the future. As we get older, we may experience changes in our health or mobility, and its smart planning to consider how you would like to live gracefully in your home.
Whether you’re planning your home for the future, or considering a much-needed renovation, take the time needed to determine the design features that can help you to accommodate your aging in place needs. Depending on your particular situation, this may require you to incorporate design features that will help you to live independently, safely, and comfortably in your home. At the time of your renovation, these design features can be “roughed” into the project at a fraction of the cost of adding them at a later date.
For example if you’re renovating a bathroom, the cost to add support blocks for future grab bars is negligible while the walls are down, compared to the significant cost and messy disruption of modifying the bath or shower in the future. This concept of forward thinking is called universal design, and a certified aging in place specialist (CAPS) is the appropriate professional to help you assess your needs in planning for your future.
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), universal design refers to an enlightened philosophy that is used to make products, homes and environments more accessible for all people regardless of age, or whether they are able bodied or not. In short, universal design makes life safer, easier and more convenient, and can be incorporated into your home without the need for costly adaptation or specialized design.
When planning your home for the future, some of the common universal design features could include enhanced door lever handles, rocker light switches, improved lighting, non-slip floor surfaces, wide doorways and hallways, and one story living to name a few. Most importantly, this type of design philosophy is unobtrusive, meaning that it does not interfere with your enjoyment of the home, and it many cases appears invisible to the owner or to visitors.
If your goal is to live safely, independently, and comfortably in your home, then consider the value added benefits of hiring a certified aging in place specialist. These professionals have the answers to your questions, and are uniquely familiar with the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically pleasing, barrier-free living environments to help you grow old gracefully in your home.
Did You Know?
85 per cent of Canadians over 55 years old want to remain in their present home for as long as possible, even if their health changes
In 2006, Canadians aged 55 years and over made up about 25 per cent of the population
By 2036, it is estimated that 35 per cent of the population will be over 55
In 2006, there are 3.7 million adults aged 55-64
By 2036, it is estimated that there will be 5 million adults aged 55-64
By 2036, it is estimated that the number of seniors aged 65 and older will be equal to the current population of Alberta and Quebec combined
Andria Cowan Molyneaux is an accredited interior decorator, designer and certified aging in place specialist, and has been accredited by the National Association of Home Builders. ACM Designs is a residential interior decorating and design business that specializes in affordable design, aging in place, and project management for a client’s city residence or lakeside home. Servicing the city of Toronto, Haliburton, Peterborough, and Hastings County, Andria is passionate about helping her clients to live in their homes, comfortably, safely, and independently for as long as they want to. For more information, please contact Andria by calling toll free 1-844-414-lake, or by visiting www.acm-designs.com or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.