As we all age as gracefully as we can and trend into retirement, it’s prudent to think about what we want this next chapter of our lives to look like. After all, if we want to maintain home ownership, independence, and a strong sense of dignity, autonomy, and freedom, it will take planning and preparation that start years in advance.
That focus on proactive planning for this stage in life is what aging in place is all about. It’s not simply a set of home features or designs; it’s a lifestyle that prioritizes the value of living in our own homes instead of a senior care facility. It’s about keeping our place in the community and providing an exceptional quality of life, even as circumstances change.
If you’re considering aging in place and want to explore real estate options in Calgary that cater to this lifestyle, there are professionals who specialize in helping individuals find homes that align with their needs during retirement. You may find it helpful to consult with a local real estate agent who can provide expert guidance and a comprehensive list of Calgary real estate options tailored to your requirements.
What is Aging in Place?
The Definition of Aging in Place
According to the federal government of Canada, the aging in place definition is “having the health and social supports and services you need to live safely and independently, in your home or your community, for as long as you wish and are able.”
In plain English, it refers to accommodations of various forms – renovations, fixtures, lighting, etc. – that help you live a fulfilling and safe life, while in your own home. In a broader sense, it also refers to the features of your community, like physical and social amenities or accessibility of goods and services, which make it possible to lead a truly fulfilling life.
Aging in Place Design
There is no single way to design a home or floorplan that will work for everyone, as every person’s situation is different. For example, most of the families we work with have minimal health issues and are just proactively setting up their home to ensure they live the most fulfilling life possible. Others may have to plan around some form of mobility challenges, which may require stair lifts or an in-home elevator, while others may be dealing with visual restraints and have a need for better lighting. And for some, a progressive illness may require design planning with our design team alongside your health care professionals, such that all home modifications allow maneuverability for this progressive condition.
“Aging in place design”, sometimes called “aging in place remodeling”, is a catch-all term for these types of design elements. Such changes require compassionate attention from a contractor or homebuilder, and a deep understanding of present and future needs. Done properly, these modifications can even help to reduce caregiver stress!
Why? Because ideally, it is best to “future-proof” an aging in place design as much as possible, reducing the risk of further renovations or a lack of accessibility in the years ahead. This is only achievable with a genuine builder-homeowner-healthcare professional relationship, and the information that is transferred between all parties provides the best possible outcome for a lifetime of living in your own home.
Benefits of Aging in Place
Most of us have experienced a visit to a hospital or a care home at some point. What we continually hear is that nobody wants their home to feel as ‘medicinal’ or ‘institutional’ as what these facilities present.
The main benefit of aging in place is that you stay in a familiar place – with the people, surroundings, yards, greenery, aromas, and community that you know and love. You know every corner of your home, every piece of furniture, and every idiosyncratic charm that makes your house a home. You know what’s outside your door, and the neighbours who live next to you, and where the nearest grocery store is.
In short, you retain an autonomous and independent life that you have enjoyed throughout your adult life. Aging in place home modifications may be the key to unlocking this, but the real benefit is somewhat intangible and irreplaceable. It’s the sense of comfort and wellbeing, not to mention the emotional and psychological benefits that contribute to longevity; aren’t these priceless outcomes of aging in place?
Aging in Place Technology
Aging in Place House Design
Contrary to what it may sound like, aging in place house plans need not be extraordinarily expensive nor take a long time to implement. It depends on your needs (and what your future needs will warrant), but sometimes the changes are quite simple.
Ranging from full renovations to minor tweaks to existing systems, here are some of the most common accessibility considerations for aging in place.
Aging in Place Home Renovations for Seniors
There are cases that require large-scale renovations to floor plans, layouts, grades, or other aspects of a home or property. For example, modifying a home to be wheelchair- or walker-friendly might necessitate removing front steps, widening doorways, or replacing the flooring to be conducive to movement between rooms; it may require a more significant solution, like an elevator or stair lift system.
These changes are not just cosmetic, either. Getting used to a “new house” – even if it’s still your old one – can take time and feel overwhelming. Choosing a qualified design-build professional that has years of experience providing these kinds of modifications is so important. The outcome of your renovation has to work both now and in the future, yet maintain or even contribute to the value of your home.
Home Modifications for Seniors
However, not every home needs a complete makeover. Many homeowners do not experience a full loss of mobility, but rather more gradual difficulties with movement, sight, and hearing; of significant importance is mitigating fall hazards – this is where home modifications for seniors come in. According to Stats Canada, every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall-related injury. In these instances, modifications can be on a smaller scale, but of immense importance. Changes such as the following can help:
- Helpful, yet aesthetically integrated grab bars can be placed in tubs, showers, toilet areas
- Properly designed lighting can be installed, providing task, ambience, and pathway lighting
- Walls can possibly be moved or rearranged to allow for better sightlines and ease of mobility between rooms
- Digital assistants, activated by voice or app like Alexa™, can help with pathway lighting, daily reminders, home environment, or fall alert devices
Bathroom Renovations for Seniors
Bathrooms are one of the most important areas to consider when thinking about aging in place. It’s where you get ready each morning, relax in a warm tub or exhilarating shower…but it’s also where many tragic slips, falls, or other accidents happen.
The good news is, there are plenty of options for upgrading accessibility in bathrooms in your home. At MyLifetimeHome, we pride ourselves on doing these in such a way that it never feels clinical or sterile – maintaining the feel of your home aesthetic and environment is always a priority.
With that in mind, if you want to renovate anyway and choose to implement things like floating vanities or non-slip flooring, they will continue to serve you well for years to come. But there are some simpler solutions to consider such as:
- Proper lighting for maximum visibility in an environment where eyesight may be reduced (due to not wearing corrective lenses or steam buildup)
- The use of touch-free or lever faucets
- Sourcing a comfort-height toilet helps considerably; and a bidet accessory can also help with daily toileting; they are both helpful and provide a luxurious experience
- Replacing bathtubs and their raised, sharp edges with curbless showers & bench, complete with in-floor heat for comfort
- Enhance safety by installing towel bars, soap shelves and grab bars that are aesthetically beautiful and integrate well with the bath area, but also are weight-rated to mitigate falls
Accessible Kitchen Renovations for Aging in Place
Aside from bedrooms, kitchens are one of the main areas where you will spend a majority of your time. Here is where you will entertain guests, share amazing meals, and enjoy conversation well into the evening, again and again. To lose the use of the kitchen would be a tragedy – but thankfully, there are ways to accommodate for aging in place here in the kitchen, too.
Cabinets can be modified for easier reach, with pull-down shelves along the upper level to avoid risk of a fall and enhance accessibility for those in wheelchairs. Multi-level countertops can be incorporated, useful and convenient for both able-bodied family members or someone sitting in a wheelchair or walker at an ADA-compliant height. Flooring should be free of obstacles or slippery areas, and made of a material that is easy to clean and traverse with minimal transition heights if a floor surface changes between rooms.
A wonderfully accessible kitchen will also have generous corridors and pathways with clearances for walkers & wheelchairs, carefully planned and designed lighting, and height-appropriate fridge and freezer access like undercounter fridge/freezer drawers. Automation will play a major role, such as lighting that comes on when you enter a room, or blinds that can be controlled by a smartphone or via automatic, time-specific placements. There are many additional ways to keep your kitchen warm and welcoming well into your retirement years, so don’t be afraid to explore the options that are best for you – just ask our design team.
Aging in Place Certification Canada
Learning to create meaningful and appropriate aging in place Calgary homes isn’t something that can be learned overnight. It takes time, patience, a dedication to understanding every client and their community, and a commitment to establishing long-term relationships based on trust. To solidify these standards, there is a newly recognized national training platform from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association: known as Adaptive Home Council. The curriculum has been developed over a four-year period, with the owner of MyLifetimeHome and Pinnacle Group, Paul Klassen, as part of that development. As of February 2022, that qualification exam was rolled out across Canada to RenoMark renovators. Pinnacle’s owner and staff were the first to successfully pass this exam in Calgary and are now providing this education and solutions to their customer base as well, through training and education seminars and webinars.
The existence of this curriculum and successful completion of the accompanying exam helps ensure that aging in place policy Canada-wide stays consistent and compatible with hundreds of municipal codes and best practices – from here in southern Alberta to anywhere else across the country.
Learn More about Aging in Place Decisions
So if you are wondering how to help aging parents at home… when should you start planning for AIP considerations? As soon as you can! Rushing into these decisions can lead to headaches down the road, especially if important details are missed or unforeseen issues arise in the process. Taking the time to plan and consider your options (like what grants are available for accessibility) and then have these discussions with your family members is such a valuable part of aging in place planning.
We invite you to call us; we would love to be part of the journey with you and your family or parents to successfully navigate a wonderful outcome as we have for so many client families here in Calgary, Alberta.