Many older adults prefer to age at home for as long as possible and there are several advantages for doing so: a feeling of belonging, participation in community life, neighbourhood support and better physical and mental health. It is estimated that about 90% of people aged 65 and over still live in their homes. Of those living at home, 30% aged 75 and over and 50% of those aged 85 and over receive care at home.
As the level of autonomy and needs evolve, it may become more challenging to meet the care needs of older adults at home. It may be necessary to look to other types of housing arrangements. Some will offer more flexible and adaptable physical arrangements, as well as better access to care and services, and allow you to socialize and participate in activities. The following three approaches to housing may be suitable to you or your loved ones.
Co-housing is an idea that emerged in Denmark in the 1960s and involves a community of private houses grouped around a shared space. The goal is to have people live together as a community, without resembling a commune. Individuals have private bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms, while benefiting from shared spaces that they manage collaboratively. These communities are based on values of engagement, collaboration, interdependence, mutual support and even "co-care" (members thus taking care of each other).
Home-sharing is an innovative approach to housing, which allows older adults to continue living in their homes, while obtaining additional income, companionship, and support. Since the 1980s, organizations in Canada have been acting as intermediaries between older adults who have a vacant room and those interested in renting it out and helping out (most often students). It connects those in need of affordable housing with older adults who can benefit from support and company.
Adapting the home
Home modifications may be a promising strategy to help older adults stay in the comfort of their homes, while improving their ability to carry out their daily activities and ensuring their safety and well-being. Home modification interventions may be more effective when coupled with other interventions, such as a comprehensive risk assessment of the home environment to reduce the potential for injuries, as well as education offered to older adults and caregivers.
When help becomes insufficient and one’s autonomy and capacities diminish (both physical and cognitive), older adults and their loved ones must evaluate their options. These may be to stay in their home and adapt it, or to move to more suitable housing with or without additional care delivered. These decisions are complex, and it is important to understand what the home represents for older adults, as well as the range of factors that can influence their decisions.
Read more about housing strategies and what the evidence says about them through our resources below.