In many ways, the face of the pandemic in Canada has been a person peering through the glass of a window separating them from the outside world. Those windows have often been at long-term care (LTC) facilities, where COVID-19 hit the country hardest. Now, more than one year into the pandemic, about 70 per cent of Canada’s total COVID-19 deaths occurred in LTC facilities. The COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes “has shifted Canadians’ views on aging in their own homes rather than in retirement or nursing homes,” according to a report by Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing. A recent survey by the institute found that:

  • 91 per cent of Canadians of all ages say they plan on “supporting themselves to live safely and independently in their own home as long as possible,” also known as aging in place
  • 60 per cent of Canadians overall, and 70 per cent of Canadians aged 65 and older, say the pandemic has changed their opinion on whether or not they’d arrange for themselves or an older loved one to live in a nursing or retirement home

Wanting to age in place is one thing. Whether you actually can is another.

As you get older, changes to your finances, health, marital status and family situation could affect how feasible it is to remain in your own home. That’s why it’s wise to make a plan for aging in place now. To do that, you and your loved ones will have to ask yourselves some tough but necessary questions.

Aging in place consideration 1: Your home

Don’t focus on the way things are right now. Consider how they may change as you get older. With your home, that includes:

Suitability: 

  • Does it have wide doorways for wheelchair access or would you need to renovate?
  • Is there a bathroom on the ground floor?
  • Are there too many stairs?
  • Will it need extensive repairs in future?
  • Is it a large property requiring extensive mowing and snow shovelling?

Affordability: 

  • Will you still have a mortgage after you retire?
  • In retirement, will you be able to afford repairs, upkeep, insurance and monthly utilities?

Location:

  • Is your home close to family and friends, as well as amenities like grocery stores?
  • Is your neighbourhood safe for seniors?
  • Do you live near sports or cultural activities you enjoy or plan to explore as you age?
  • Will local winters make walking or driving hazardous if you become frail?

Aging in place consideration 2: Getting around

If you plan to keep driving during your golden years, make sure you’ll still be able to afford gas, parking, insurance and repairs.

Do you have any degenerative medical conditions that could hinder your ability to drive? If so, are crucial amenities within walking distance of your home?

What about the safety of your neighbourhood? If crime or traffic make you feel unsafe walking in your neighbourhood, that is an important consideration. Ensure there is safe, affordable public transport near your residence, or that you have the option to arrange accessible transit as you grow older.

Aging in place consideration 3: Finances

Calculate whether your savings, investments, workplace pension and RSPs will sustain you remaining at home for decades to come. Then assess if you’ll qualify for other sources of income as a senior, such as federal and provincial tax credits, Old Age Pension, Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement and veterans’ benefits.

Try to project future expenses that could add up as you age, including medications, assistive devices such as ramps and handrails, public transportation and home renovations for accessibility.

One big potential expense is home care, which assists seniors with necessities like cooking and bathing. Find out which public and private agencies provide home care workers in your area, their monthly fees, and if you’ll be eligible for government or private benefits to defray the cost.

Aging in place consideration 4: Staying healthy

Physical and mental health are critical to aging in place. Are there good quality doctors, hospitals, clinics and specialists in your area? Will your future budget cover medications, physiotherapy, assistive devices and accessibility renovations?

In addition, you’ll likely want and need the support of your community. Are there family, friends, cultural institutions, recreation facilities and community support services nearby to keep you active and socially connected? All of these will help you stay physically active with a positive outlook and good mental health as you grow older.

Take the time to reflect on your personal living situation and answer the above questions to gain insights into safely, comfortably aging in place. As part of your evaluation, the Canadian government offers even more resources including a detailed checklist to assess your readiness and refine your plan.