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Aging in place

How to grow older at home
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You’ve decided to stay in your home rather than move to a supported retirement home, but it means that renovations are in order. Consider these factors before hiring a contractor or choosing your new countertops.

Crafting a list of core needs for your home is key to ensuring that you invest in the right, lasting and flexible home modifications, and it will help you stay on budget. 

If your mobility is reduced, you may need to look at ramps, railings, adjusted heights for countertops, beds, toilets and so on, for example. If vision is a concern, modifying lighting, marking the stove and laundry areas clearly, and reducing any built-in tripping hazards, such as lifting carpets, is key.

Rather than making this list on your own, leverage in-home assessment services to better understand your needs and the required improvements to age in place comfortably. Many primary health-care providers can recommend free or low-cost assessment services, specifically suited to your unique health requirements. Some of these are provided through the province you live in, while others are offered through national or local non-profits like the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a helpful checklist of low- to no-cost home modifications to consider, if you opt not to receive an in-home assessment ( 

Next, prioritize the most important set of home modifications and flag the nice-to-haves. The cost of must-do modifications will form the basis of your budget (don’t forget to include any anticipated contractor costs).

Government Financial Supports

Modifying your home, and then living in it as you age, is an investment. The good news: You can access financial help. Each province offers unique programs; many are geared to support lower-income seniors. The grants include:

  • Home mobility adaptations (e.g., the SHARP program in Alberta or the Ontario Renovates program)
  • Emergency repair and home-
    preservation programs (e.g., Nova Scotia’s Emergency Repair Program)
  • Energy efficiency upgrades and emergency relief for energy costs (e.g., the LEAP program in Ontario); many local utility companies also offer relief programs 
  • Credits or deferrals for property taxes (e.g., Saskatchewan’s Property Tax Deferral Program)
  • Secondary suites for retirees (e.g., Manitoba’s Secondary Suites program)
  • Snow removal (e.g., Ottawa’s Snow Go Assist program)

After you’ve completed a needs assessment and built your budget, investigate available financial systems and supports. And, if your internet searching isn’t fruitful, make a trip to your local library. Librarians are incredible in helping to refine searches and get you the information you need.

If you need in-home care, eligible medical expenses can be claimed on your tax return.

If staying in your home for as long as possible is what’s right for you, incorporate these additional to-dos into your plans: get an updated financial plan prepared with your advisor so that you can see the long-term impacts of your age-in-place investments; check in on your will, power of attorney and health directive to ensure they reflect what you want should you become unable to make independent decisions about your finances or health; and make a clear plan to stay connected socially and to the services you need to thrive. 

  1. The provincial grants (and in some cases forgivable loans) range from a few thousand dollars to over $20,000, and the terms and conditions are unique. The usual process is that you pay first, and then apply for the grants.
  2. Renovation expenses that improve safety and access in a home generally qualify for the federal Home Accessibility Tax Credit or the Medical Expense Tax Credit. The maximum claim is $20,000 per year per qualifying individual for the federal Home Accessibility Tax Credit.

Home modifications can affect the price when it comes time to sell. Keep the modifications as flexible as possible, so a potential buyer can reverse the work. That said, some buyers might need the modifications themselves and might be willing to pay the asking price.

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