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Age in Place: Advice for Designing a Senior Friendly Home

Most seniors would rather make their homes safer and age in place, than move to senior housing or an assisted living facility.

A lovely couple determined to age in place

As life expectancies continue to increase throughout the world, Senior populations have risen accordingly. Seniors today are not only living longer, but also healthier and more active than ever before. Along with these demographic changes, there has come a growing interest in the concept of aging in place.

According to a market study conducted by Stannah, nearly 90% of our customers want to stay at home as they age. This study goes hand in hand with a 2015 guide made by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which concluded that “approximately 90% of seniors intend to continue living in their current home.”

At this point, we should pose the question: are Canadian homes suitable for senior friendly living?

In a perfect world, a senior should live in a single-story home, with no raised entrance. But of course, that isn’t the case for everyone. Understanding that Canadian homes come in all shapes and sizes, here are some tips on how to make your home safer and more comfortable for you or your loved ones as they age.

Canada’s Most Popular Home Styles

Canada’s most popular home styles

Houses provide shelter, but besides this they tell us stories about the people that live in them. There are distinct kinds of houses that you can buy in Canada, according to the website prepareforcanada.com there are 5 types of houses in Canada:Condominiums

Condominiums

This type of house normally is found in apartment buildings, but townhouses can also have a condo ownership model. You own the unit, or “condo”, but you do not own the land it is built on or any common space outside your unit. You are chargef monthly “condo fees” to maintain all communal areas shared by the condo owners.

Condo owners have rules that they have to follow and they are part of a “condo corporation” or member’s association. The condo corporation committee members meet to decide on issues related to the building and its unit owners.

Detached House

Tends to be the most expensive home to purchase due to land costs. You own the house and the land it is on. When your house needs some kind of repair, you must pay for it yourself. House owners must also pay the monthly bills for water and heat, as well as their own bills (telephone, etc). They must obey local bylaws and apply for renovation and building permits when necessary. Single houses are the most appealing for families with children, because they provide more space and privacy than other unit types.

Townhouse

Houses attached to each other. You share a wall on either side with the people who live beside you. Often, especially in cities, there may also be a smaller unit above each townhouse, so there could also be someone living above you. Townhouses are usually 2 or 3 levels tall.

Semi-detached House

This is a home joined to another on one side. Owners only have to care about their own side. Owners of semi-detached houses own their property, including the land it is on and are responsible for its care and maintenance. Semi-detached houses normally appeal to people who want to own their own house and well as the land it is on. They are less expensive than fully detached houses, but it depends on the area.

Duplex/Triplex

It’s a building divided in multiple units. Like semi-detached houses, each household had its separate entrance and is responsible for the care of its own unit.

Types of homes that are duplexed or divided into two or more separate living units may be detached homes, semi-detached or even row houses.

Now that you have talked about the types of houses that you can find in Canada we are going to point out the different types of architectural houses there is.

By Tradewinds (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Queen Anne

This type of house has influences of the Picturesque Ecletism that was popular in London during the 1860’s, it quickly moved to North America and became a prominent residential style. It became the most commom housing type in late 19th century, remaining popular as late as 1912.

Typical Triplex Canadian House

By Tradewinds (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Italianate

It takes inspiration from the Victorian housing. Based on Classical Revival models, symmetry was an early defining design element of this type of house. Associated with this style were “Second-Empire” houses with their characteristic mansard roofs, a double-pitched roof with the lower section being significantly steeper than the upper.

Typical Italianete Canadian House

David Wright [CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Edwardian Vernacular

This type of house goes back to classic influences. The simple and economical Edwardian house, a vernacular interpretation of the Neo-Classica style, quickly became the most popular residential building style in Vancouver during the first decade of the 20th century.

Typical Edwardian Vernacular Canadian House

Neo-Classical

Inspired by Italian Renaissance models, this style reflects a restrained Classical expression whose traditions were deeply rooted in the ancient architectures of the Western world.

Neo-classical Canadian House

Joe Mabel [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Craftsman

This style was influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement, that was divided into two different streams of influence. The first of these was the Birtish Arts & Crafts, inspired by the earlier Arts & Crafts movement in Britain. The second was the American Arts & Crafts, based on rural and vernacular styles in Britain, Japan and Switzerland.

Craftsman Canadian House

By Hannahgoldstein at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tudor Revival

This style can be seen on residential buildings from small cottages to large opulent houses. Is characterized by prominent half-timbering, strong masonry foundations and tall ornate chimneys. This building type became popular in Vancouver and Victoria between 1900 and the 1930s.

Period Revivals

Colonial Revival – Inspired by Classical architecture. Typical elements included bell cast roofs, a symmetrical plan, open front verandahs, eave brackets, classically inspired mouldings, classical columns and multi-paned Palladian windows.

Georgian Revival – Based on the Italian Renaissance it was the dominant architectural style in the American colonies in the 1700s. Characteristic elements include a symmetrical plan. A façade divided into three, five or seven bays, a hipped roof, a pedimented porch, columns, pilasters, cornices, multi-paned or Palladian windows, and generally classical proportions

Spanish Revival – The style is typically defined by curved roof edges, flat stucco surfaces, open porches and balconies, rood tiles, arched window and door openings, colonnaded entrances and other references to Spanish forms.

Moderne

A response to a new era. The foundation is smooth, clean and simple lines and it pays tribute to the machine age. Based on simple geometric forms, the Moderne was not heavily decorated, and provided a more simple and economical architecture.

Do you recognize some of these features in your own home? If so, you might well be thinking about how many stairs you must climb, every day, to get from the porch to your bedroom. Moreover, you may be even thinking about moving to a single-story home. But would it be a practical decision or even achievable? Instead, Stannah can provide advice on how to make your lifetime home safer with a stairlift!

Given the diversity of Canadian Housing architecture, our technicians have found that there are different challenges to installing stairlifts in different parts of the country.

Fortunately, Stannah has implemented a very reliable installation process that allows us to keep things consistent, no matter where we are in the world. Whether it’s a long spiral staircase out West or a door that opens into the staircase down South, Stannah is prepared for every eventuality.

Our sales advisors and technicians are always careful to examine the staircase from all angles and make sure that we’ve designed and fit the best possible stairlift. Sometimes, that means getting a little creative. With basement doors opening into the staircase, we must make sure that we have the proper clearance at the top. For longer spiral staircases in the Western part of the country, our custom rail designs allow our lifts to hug the corners as closely as possible. Dealing with different kinds of staircases can be a tricky endeavor. But, our dealers have a ton of local knowledge, so we’re always approaching these situations with a trained eye.

Live independently and safely at home

Different rooms in a house

Stannah has put in a lot of work into understanding the aging process and the essentials for creating senior-friendly spaces and devices. So, we are happy to provide you with some home safety advice to ensure that your home is as safe and comfortable as possible.

We can never talk enough about our safety or the safety of our loved ones

Try making a checklist based on the following tips:

  • Keep a fire extinguisher and smoke detector on every floor.
  • Remove electrical or telephone cords from high traffic areas.
  • Avoid using slippery wax on floors.
  • Use proper footwear.
  • Wipe up spills promptly.
  • Avoid standing on ladders or chairs.
  • Use only non-glare 100 watt or greater incandescent bulbs.
  • Make sure that all stair cases have good lighting with switches at the top and bottom.
  • Make sure that staircase steps should have a non-slip surface.
  • Have sturdy rails for all stairs inside and outside the house, or consider purchasing a stairlift.
  • Store heavier objects at waist level.
  • Arrange furniture to give you plenty of room to walk freely.
  • Skid-proof the tub and make sure the bath mat has a non-slip bottom.
  • Properly place grab bars in your tub and shower, and next to the toilet, to help avoid falls.
  • Avoid wearing long, loose clothing when cooking over the stove.

Much of this advice is easy to forget, especially when we’re busy with our daily-routines. Nevertheless, we can’t talk enough about our safety or the safety of our loved ones, regardless of whether they live in a house or in a residential building.

Barrier to aging in place

Most seniors live at home and want their needs met there. They start to lose some abilities and their health deteriorates, because of that they need constant care such as meals and housekeeping, help with shopping and errands, transportation to activities, services and appointments. Home care services however, are not universally covered by health care or insurance. The average cost of weekly home care services for seniors ranges between $134 and $412 across health regions.

According to a study done by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in 2014 just over one in four Canadian seniors ages 75 or older (27%) relied on home care services, compared to about one in eight (13%) younger seniors. Seniors rely on volunteers, spouses, neighbours, grandchildren or friends. Without this support, a senior living alone may have no choice but to enter a care facility.

A Special Senate Committee on Aging report outlined current barriers to aging in place, including the cost of retrofitting seniors’ homes to install features such as grab bars and stair lifts.

The best way of looking at aging in place is to consider that all housing providers are, in a sense, providing housing for seniors. Any housing should be adaptable as its residents’ age. Design features such as stairlifts that facilitate aging in place can be incorporated into the original design plans of a project. They can be a selling feature: even if some current buyers do not plan to live in the unit over the long term, they will be interested in any features that could add to the resale value.

Make stairs safe again

Safe stairs with Stannah Stairlifts

Just like anyone else, seniors have a strong sense of purpose and passion about their lives and shouldn’t have to worry about the future. While research shows that more than half of seniors are very confident in their ability to stay in their current homes for the next five to ten years, getting older is not an easy process. For many, by the end of the day, coping with physical pain and dependency can be very frustrating and may affect seniors psychologically.

One in five seniors have already made significant home modifications to help them age in place. In fact, making a few simple changes can be significantly cheaper than moving to another home. Apart from the cost, people simply love their homes and have friends and family nearby.

Once these factors have been considered, it’s often stairs that seem to be the primary concern when evaluating senior home safety.

As we age, arthritis, knee or back pain may be factors in making stair climbing more difficult. For older people living on more than one level, stairs can be especially dangerous. Some of the most incapacitating injuries, like hip or leg fractures, are the result of falling down the stairs. So, it is vital that stairs are as safe as possible.

Families deserve to know their relatives are safe, secure and have the freedom to move about their entire home with complete independence.

To reduce the risk of falling down the stairs it is extremely important to make home modifications like installing grab bars, securing loose carpets or even installing a stairlift for the staircase. Families deserve to know their loved ones are safe, secure and have the freedom to move about their entire home with complete independence.

In fact, preventive planning, more than merely a reaction to a fall, has been the main reason why people consider purchasing a stairlift. There is much more awareness today than even five or ten years ago. Aging in place has become a huge trend in the US and seniors are really committed to staying in their homes.

Moreover, your home is where you raised a family. A place full of happy memories. It’s where you belong.

“Come to find out, he hadn’t been upstairs in five years!”

One installer recently shared this story that perfectly sums up the emotions that many people experience when riding their stairlift for the first time:

“So, we went over to this gentleman’s house to put the lift in. Once everything was all set up, we showed him how to use his stairlift and he took his first ride. Come to find out, he hadn’t been upstairs in five years! The man was so happy and overcome with emotion, that he started crying and hugged us both. It turned out to be a really great day. Moments like that are exactly why I love this job!”

Stannah gives you the security and independence to age in place in complete safety. Although each stairlift installation is a challenge, it is all worth it once we see our customers smile.