Canadians spend around 90% of their time indoors doing things that are meaningful to them, and a lot of that time – whether sleeping or waking – is spent at home. For most people, it’s where they feel most comfortable. Home is where your “habits have a habitat” as the musician Fiona Apple neatly put it. Your home is not always perfectly the way you would like it to be, but it is familiarity, safety, and your nest. Almost everyone, no matter what age, would express a preference for staying in their home into their oldest years, versus moving to a supported living facility such as assisted living or residential care. However, market analysis suggests that over 80% of Canadian homes need to be modified to be suitable for aging-in-place, thus creating a problem.

It’s not just older adults that may be invested in considering this conundrum though. Life throws up surprises such as accidents, injuries, and medical conditions we didn’t see coming, but suddenly require a change in the way we live. And that includes changing the home so that the home works well for someone with changed functional abilities, rather than the home becoming hard work. Consider someone who suffers a spinal cord injury, a stroke, a hip fracture from a fall, or an amputation related to a diabetic condition – these people will urgently need changes to their home just to be released from hospital and get through the front door, let alone actually getting anything done inside the house.

People with progressive conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and dementia would also benefit from anticipating the changes that are likely at some point in the future, and modifying their homes to accommodate for those changes in a strategic manner. A bit of proactive thinking can go a long way to ensuring that the person concerned maintains their autonomy and independence when it comes to decisions regarding home layout and usability.

Nowadays, a lot of people are choosing to put money into renovating their homes rather than buying something new, because house prices are so high. Buying new may be the best option in some cases, but in many cases, planning for flexible and periodic adaptations to the home often prevents the need for costly renovations down the road. Having a longer-term plan for your home could enable your kids and grandkids to cohabit in the space and later on, for the adult children to support their aging parents in the same home, or auxiliary building on the same property. The continuity of familiarity and memories that staying in the same home enables, let alone the increased affordability of ‘in-house’ support (e.g. child care for the kids, home support for the aging adults) will be invaluable for all concerned.

For sure, it’s quite a shift in mindset from reactionary decision-making to proactive decision-making and it requires spending upfront rather than putting off shelling out money to the future, which can be a bitter pill to swallow. However, many of the current trends are pointing towards the proactive approach being the preferable one. It’s the best way to make sure that home stays where the heart is, rather than the home becoming a head and heart ache.

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