How to adjust your home as you age

Make your house safe and comfortable

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When most Canadians imagine how they will enjoy their later years, many think in the safe, familiar setting of their home.

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 “Although we’re so focused these days on all the issues of long-term care, the fact is only five to eight per cent of older Canadians live in long-term institutional care facilities. (Up to) 95 per cent live in their own homes,” says Bill VanGorder, chief operating officer and chief policy officer with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP).

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VanGorder says a CARP survey a few years ago “showed that 85 to 90 per cent of older Canadians want to stay in their own homes in their own communities.”

That may require ensuring the home remains safe and livable.

“Often, it’s just one small thing that drives a person into having to think about moving into a nursing home or long-term institutional care,” says VanGorder.

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It could be stairs in a home that are increasingly difficult to climb, or doorways too narrow for a wheelchair that a person may at some point require.

VanGorder says adding a stair lift, widening doorways, adding grab bars in a bathroom and other renovations might alleviate many problems.

“All of those are much less expensive than the cost of moving into total long-term care,” he says.

CARP is encouraging industry to plan ahead to help people age in place, such as having builders design and construct homes to be age-friendly to seniors right from the beginning.

Encore Age in Place Editorial 2

VanGorder says a study showed that building a new home to be senior friendly with things such as wider doors, plywood behind bathtub and shower walls to allow secure attachment of grab bars, and other items would cost an additional $800 to $1,000, while renovating for that later is often more expensive.

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“A senior-friendly home is friendly to everybody. There’s nothing that wouldn’t work for everybody. If there’s plywood behind the bathroom walls, you don’t have to put the grab bars on now, you can do that when you need it.”

VanGorder says some pharmacies have departments or entire stores that sell age-in-place accessories.

CARP itself is working on a comprehensive resource for its website that will look at the various home renovation options to help someone age in place.

Here are five areas where changes can make a home more age-friendly.


Install toilet seat risers, grab bars in and around tubs and showers, or renovate to curb-free shower stalls or a walk-in tub.


Stairlifts can provide access to floors above or below the main level, while ramps allow easier entry and exit from a home. Or renovate to move needed facilities like laundry to a main floor.

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Add motion-activated light switches so seniors don’t have to try and find them in a darkened room. Move light switches lower and raise electrical outlets for wheelchair users.


Install stoves or cook tops with knobs on the front, to avoid the need to reach across the cooking elements. Consider fridges and dishwashers that use drawers rather than doors. Drawer inserts in cabinets can also be helpful.


Widen doorways for wheelchair users and eliminate rugs that are tripping hazards and replace slippery flooring with non-slip products. Replace door knobs with levers.

The story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division.

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