Converting a house for seniors' needs

Finding a home you can live in well into your golden years can be a challenge. One option is to custom build including features like stacked closets that can later be converted to an elevator shaft, for example.

Such features recall Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's FlexHousing, a concept developed in the 1990s.

A FlexHouse allows easy conversions - for example, turning one bedroom into two or an attic into a family room - as a family evolves. It also incorporates universal design features like sinks and cooktops that are open underneath to allow wheelchair access.

A family could theoretically live in a FlexHouse for decades rather than upsizing and downsizing as needs change.

Another option to create a long-term living space is to renovate with the future in mind.

As people get older, simple tasks become more difficult. Consider installing such items as a dumb waiter to haul groceries and other heavy objects up to the main level, a raised toilet and grab bars in the bathroom, lever handles on most doors, and pullout kitchen cabinetry for dishes, pots and pans.

Other ideas include installing stairs with a wide tread and low risers that are easy to navigate and minimize floor coverings to avoid tripping on carpet edges. Also consider widening doorways and installing a ramp to aid wheelchair accessibility

Other aids include interior stair lifts with a chair to transport you from one level to the next.

A system for a straight staircase costs about $3,400, including installation, at Canada Care Medical in Ottawa. Curved stairs require a custom-built system running $10,000 to $20,000. The stairs usually need to be at least 81 centimetres wide.

The company also sells porch lifts. Resembling an open elevator, they're usually installed at the back of the house and accommodate a wheelchair or a scooter. They run $5,000 to $7,000 but require a concrete pad.

Some boomers who are adding secondary suites, also known as granny flats, to their homes for their aging parents are thinking even longer term. When the parents pass on, their children could take over the suite or the couple might themselves, turning the main house over to one or more of their children.

Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation offers a forgivable loan of up to $24,000 in southern Canada to build a secondary rental unit for a low-income senior or adult with a disability.

CMHC also offers a forgivable loan of up to $3,500 to low-income seniors and landlords making other minor changes to allow aging in place.

Source: Patrick Langston, Postmedia News


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