Canada is facing an unprecedented demographic shift over the next 50 years.

For the first time in history, 1 in every 6 Canadians is aged 65 and over.

In 2020, about half of the population will be over 60 years of age. That’s almost 19 million people!

By 2036, the population of Canadians 65 and over is projected to be double that of 2009.


Are we prepared?

Based on those facts, isn’t it crazy that the Capital Regional District (Greater Victoria) doesn’t have any building regulations for private residences to ensure they accommodate aging occupants? What’s going to happen in the next couple of decades when this population continues to grow? Combine this with the fact that we are all living longer due to better health care.

Reuters reports that more than ½ of babies born in rich nations today will live to be 100 years old, if current life expectancy continues.

This coming demographic shift is going to catch us in short supply in terms of the accessible housing market.

  • Are we prepared for the fact that 1,000 Canadian Baby Boomers turn 65 every day?
  • Are the existing models that we have for housing adequate in design and requirements for this population?

Vancouver didn’t seem to think so because In 2014 it approved changes to its building code that makes new homes more accessible by incorporating lower thresholds, wider hallways, and lever handles on sinks, just to name a few.

Victoria needs to follow suit. Especially due to the large population of Baby Boomers who are planning on retiring in the capital city. Over 25% of Victoria’s population is currently over 55 years of age and this rate is only going to increase in the coming years.

A National Association of Home Builders survey in 2011 revealed that 68% of remodelers are already performing aging-in-place remodeling. The most popular requests are grab bars, higher toilets, curb-less showers, wider doorways, ramps, lower thresholds and task lighting. They also report that home elevator installation is on the rise (no pun intended).

Installing these features after a house has been built is much more expensive than if they were included from the start, especially anything that entails major construction work to the building such as wider doorways and lower thresholds. So it makes more economic sense for all homeowners to have these options readily available in their homes.


Not just for later in life

Not that we should only be building accessible houses for older adults, however. Accessible homes will benefit everybody from the very young to the very old.  This kind of design combines safety and comfort with style to create a home that is beautiful, versatile and practical, and has the ability to adapt to the different abilities and needs of the occupants.


Action Plan

Encourage your local governments to take a closer look at their residential building codes as they relate to accessibility. Use the example of the City of Vancouver and their new guidelines which you can find here.

It’s time to start being proactive with residential home design rather than reactive to the problems that arise from poor planning.

Building accessible homes will ensure they are sustainable and more environmentally friendly as they will require fewer changes in the long run.