The floors are too slick, and the stairs are too many. Most homes in Canada are not designed to accommodate the needs of people age 65 and older. The home that many of today’s seniors bought at a young age was not built with an older person’s needs in mind. The bedrooms are upstairs and the door openings are too small for a wheelchair. Outside, the sidewalks are buckled and the manual garage door is nearly impossible to lift.
But this is home. The 2011 Census of Population counted nearly 5 million (4,945,000) seniors aged 65 and over in Canada. Of these individuals, 92.1% lived in private households or dwellings (as part of couples, alone or with others) while 7.9% lived in collective dwellings, such as residences for senior citizens or health care and related facilities. These proportions were relatively unchanged from 2001 when 92.6% of the senior population lived in private households and 7.4% lived in collective dwellings. So what can the elderly do to remain independent and safe in their homes that no longer meet their physical requirements?
CCDS has launched the Collaborative Knowledge Building and Action for Visitable Housing in Canadian Cities Project (hereafter referred to as “the Visitability Project”). The Visitability Project intends to promote visitable housing for all Canadians, including seniors. The Visitability Project is a national initiative that will run until March 2016. This project was funded by the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program — Disability Component. Visit this site at http://visitablehousingcanada.com/ to see how you can benefit from these services.
Whether to repair or upgrade are key considerations when planning home modifications, and the seniors themselves need to be involved as much as possible in the decision making. Depending on the desired improvements, work may be a do-it-yourself project or require the professional help of a contractor. If a senior has specific health requirements for the home, it may be advisable to consult with an occupational therapist or other healthcare professional.
“Often, our home care providers will find a safety or accessibility problem in a client’s home such as a loose railing or faucet out of reach, and we’ll talk with the client and family about these concerns,” Tracey Schlosser, President, Right at Home Hamilton explained. “If home modifications are needed, we can help the senior adjust smoothly to the changes and upgrades in their surroundings.
Schlosser recommends that before moving ahead with home modification, it is best for the senior along with relatives or friends to go through each room noting any areas needing improvement. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) website offers a “self-assessment guide” that identifies the types of difficulties that seniors can experience and describes types of adaptations that can help overcome these difficulties. Some of these may include:
__ Flooring free of cracks, splits and up-turned edges
__ Carpets secure with no loose or torn patches
__ Bright lighting with handy, easy-control switches
__ Properly grounded electrical outlets within easy reach
__ Space to add video home monitoring
__ Easy-to-use faucets, cabinet doorknobs and stove controls
__ Grab bars where needed for support
__ Comfortable counter height and depth
__ Easy access into and out of the bathtub or shower
__ Nonslip surfaces in the bathtub or shower
__ Grab bars near the toilet and bathtub or shower
__ Simple control of sink/shower/tub faucets’ water temperature
__ Shower/bathtub bench or seat
__ Door openings wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair
__ Sturdy, easy-to-turn door locks
__ Windows well-sealed and easy to open and close
Stairs and Inclines
__ Stairs in good condition
__ Steps wide enough for whole foot
__ No loose carpeting or edges
__ Secure handrails on both sides of stairway at proper height
__ Ramps to replace stairs or steps inside and outside
In reviewing all the areas of a senior’s home that could benefit from renovations, make a list of potential problems and possible solutions. Pay special attention to stairs and uneven and slippery walkways. Some towns and cities offer community development grant funds, or homeowners may qualify for a home equity mortgage to pay for home improvements.
About the Author
Right at Home Canada offers both non-medical and medical care to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Right at Home Canada offers a unique approach to care delivery including a Care Team that leads to a higher level of quality and care experience. Each caregiver is thoroughly screened, trained and insured prior to entering a client’s home. Right at Home is a global organization with offices in Canada, the United States, China, Brazil, the UK, Ireland, Japan and Australia.
For further information, please contact:
Tracey Schlosser, President – Right at Home Canada – Hamilton