By the year 2036 more than half of all Canadian households will be owned by people over the age of 55 and accordingly, the changing requirements of people as they age are being considered in the design and construction of many new homes being built today.

This concept is called “Adaptable Housing” and it is a growing trend throughout the country with varying degrees of adaptability being incorporated into many new homes. Integrating much of the technology that may be needed down the road at the time of construction is cost effective and will not dramatically change the esthetics of the home.

An adaptable home can be designed to easily incorporate specific wishes as your needs evolve without costly renovations or structural changes down the road. Wider doors and hallways, lever handles, entrances without steps, no changes in floor height and reinforcement in walls for future grab bars and rails are some of the areas being addressed. As well, wall switches can be installed lower and wall receptacles can be installed higher for ease of use.

The kitchen is the heart of the home and we tend to spend a great deal of time there. As we age, the possibility of mobility may become an issue and many modifications can be made to this room at the time of construction to make it a user friendly and comfortable space both now and in the future. Cabinet pulls instead of knobs on cabinetry doors and drawers are both esthetically pleasing and much easier on arthritic hands. Contrasting edges on counter tops may be considered for someone who is visually impaired. Adjusting the height of cabinets or removing cabinets over the course of time can maintain the functionality of a kitchen as your needs change. Another consideration when you are building a new home is appliance selection and placement. Appliances like under the counter refrigerator drawers, an elevated dishwasher or wall oven, open space below a sink, lower countertop work surfaces and pull down shelves in upper cabinets all make a kitchen more functional and accessible for someone in a wheelchair and are some of the options you may want to consider. While the cost of some of these appliances is relatively high the price will go down as they become more mainstream.

The bathroom is another room where functionality and comfort should go hand in hand. Adjustable height shower heads, backing for grab bars and rails, curb free showers and 5 foot clear floor space for turning a wheelchair are considerations that warrant serious consideration.

Adaptable housing can also include the possibilities of expanding useable floor space, dividing into extra units, removing walls to create larger rooms or roughing in an additional bathroom in an area initially used as a closet.

Adaptability is no longer just limited to your home. Planners are now developing communities that offer a wide range of housing types including detached homes, row housing and apartments. Retirement homes interspersed throughout neighbourhoods provide varying degrees of care ranging from self-contained apartments for independent living to full care housing arrangements enabling people to transition without relocating.

The basic elements of adaptable housing are incorporated into almost every new home built but beyond the basics these features can be customized to meet your own individual needs. It is considerably less expensive to prepare your home for the future at the time of construction and with some forethought and good planning your home will evolve with you as your needs change.

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