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GET YOUR HOME READY FOR YOUR SENIOR YEARS

Downsizing to a condominium or apartment isn't in everyone's retirement plan. In fact, many people don't want to give up their home or their community just because the years are marching on.

Forty-seven per cent of pre-retired and 56 per cent of retired survey respondents said "staying in my home is critical for my quality of life," according to a 2015 HomEquity Bank/The Brondesbury Group's retirement study of Canadians aged 55 plus.

However, aging in place may require some work. A HomEquity Bank/Ispos Canada survey focusing on Canadian homeowners 55 years and older asked if renovations were needed so they could remain in their homes. Fifty-eight per cent said that improvements would be needed (46 per cent said minor renovations would be required while the others said the renovations would be major).

Forty-four per cent of the 300 Canadian homeowners surveyed in spring 2016 said their kitchens and/or bathrooms would require work to make them accessible.

Another 38 per cent of those surveyed for the HomEquity/Ispos survey said they would have to add grab bars and hand rails in their home. Twenty-one per cent said they would want to install security or medical aid systems.

It's never too early to start planning to age in place. "The earlier you start planning, the more prepared you will be to respond to changes that occur as you age, such as changes in your health, mobility or social connections," says the Government of Canada website page.

"To successfully plan ahead, you need to start thinking about how you want to live as you age and what steps you need to take to achieve that lifestyle...Making choices now will give you greater control over your independence, quality of life and dignity."

Go through your house to see what changes can be made to help you age in place, and as you renovate, include as many of those features as possible.

If you're doing major renovations, you may choose to add an elevator, widen doorways and hallways or add large walk-in showers instead of a hard-to-climb-into freestanding tub. If major renovations aren't feasible, you may want to add a stair lift to help you get up and down stairs, or add a full main-floor bathroom and convert a main-floor room into a bedroom so you don't have to navigate stairs.

Door levers are easier to use than knobs. Consider installing electric outlets higher from the floor so users don't have to bend as low, and place switches closer to the floor to make them accessible for people in wheelchairs.

Even if people don't have mobility issues now, they may want to think about future accessibility designs. Adjust the height of counters and have a removable portion under the sink to accommodate a wheelchair.

The Rona Home and Garden website says a good bathroom layout should include a toilet area in the least visible part of the room, separate from the rest of the room if space allows. "For maximum comfort, allow 30 inches of space on each side of the toilet and 30 to 40 inches in front."

In the shower and bathtub area, leave at least 60 inches along the side for easy access and another 30 inches in front of the tub. Include a cabinet or shelves to store towels and other necessities.

Leave eight inches free on either side of the washbasin. Vanity heights of 32 or 34 inches are more ergonomic for wheelchair users or smaller people, says Rona.

"Try to make sure cabinets are installed more than 36 inches from the edge of the bathtub or deck (for a drop in tub). If there is a wheelchair user in the family, allow at least 60 inches for easy manoeuvrability between fixtures and furniture." A minimum of 60 inches between the different elements of the bathroom, such as countertops and fixtures, is required to manoeuvre with a wheelchair or a walking aid.

Other ideas include installing a taller toilet and adjustable-height shower heads. Cork floors are a warmer, softer and less slippery option than ceramic tiles for kitchens and bathrooms.



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