How close are we to getting home modification funding?
The global pandemic has brought about many changes to all aspects of our lives, with one of the biggest changes being how much time we spend in our homes. This has got many Canadians thinking about their future and the benefits of staying right where they are as they age. However, for the older population to safely age at home, much needs to be done by the government and society in general.
Here, we’ll look at the current situation of aging in place in Canada and what needs to happen so that everyone has the opportunity to access projects and programs to make their homes safe and comfortable as they age.
Caring for An Aging Population
Like many issues, being aware of the problem is the first step to coming up with solutions. Awareness is certainly growing as the population ages and seniors make their voices heard. So, what does the older generation want and need? Studies have shown that the best way to care for the older population is by thoughtful planning of their environment and making sure they have access to hands-on care. Having the opportunity to adapt their own homes into a safe haven enabling them to stay put, is becoming more of a priority for many.
Unfortunately, so far, there hasn’t been much in the way of political action to make this happen. Despite having universal healthcare, many programs and procedures have been slowly reduced over the years, leading to individuals having to pay for much of their care. This includes home modifications which often help seniors maintain all-important independence and mobility in their own homes.
More Accessible Housing
In recent years, there has been a growing acceptance that things need to change regarding accessible homes for aging seniors. Current waiting lists for Long Term Care (LTC) in Ontario average about 30,000 on any given day, showing a clear need for more to be done in the accessible housing sector.
But things are starting to look up. Both nationally and regionally, changes and improvements are being made to Accessibility Standards and Acts. Building code, universal design and ensuring accessibility and visitability for all are slowly becoming the standard for new and old buildings alike. This, of course, will take time, but it’s certainly a start.
How COVID-19 Has Changed Perspectives
Sometimes it feels hard to imagine what daily life was like pre-pandemic. Spending more time at home has been difficult and isolating for many people. Despite this and other negative effects, there have also been some positive aspects to take away. The population as a whole has had to become more flexible in every way; with work, socializing and general daily-life tasks.
And it’s not just individuals who have had to make changes. The Canadian government had to respond rapidly as COVID spread through the country. Multiple financial and support packages were brought in, showcasing the government’s ability to act in times of crisis.
As we have seen the government cope with one health emergency, we know that handling more issues is achievable. As the population ages, we are seeing evidence of a lack of provisions for appropriate housing and accommodation which will need remedying, and soon, before it reaches a tipping point.
Current Government Funding and Other Options
Let’s look at things from a strictly financial perspective. Considering the high cost of LTC and hospital care, which are funded by Canadian taxpayers, it’s about time more was done to enable seniors to age in place as safely as possible, reducing the need for as much institutionalized care.
Care-housing funding exists, but where does it get spent? Only around 20% of funds are spent on homecare programs, while about 80% go to institutional housing. Of this funding, the vast majority pays for staffing which leaves very little to put towards home modifications.
Take, for example, the province of Ontario. It has just one general program focused on home modification funding for people with disabilities, run by March of Dimes Canada. With a budget of $9M per year, they still have a waiting list of over 300 per month and countless others who don’t meet the financial means test.
So, what other options are there? RENOVATES programs have been adopted and developed by some of Ontario’s municipal governments. However, with an average budget of around $5000, these funds go to maintenance and home repair, not specifically aging in place grants.
Another, perhaps less desirable option for many Canadians looking to modify their homes, is taking out a reverse mortgage, which can release equity from a property to help fund necessary modifications.
Finally, extending tax credits for aging in place renovations can allow some financial flexibility for homeowners. Currently, Ontario offers a 25% tax credit on your provincial taxes for renovations up to $15,000. Again, it’s a start, but increasing this amount would, without a shadow of a doubt, benefit many more seniors.
As we can see, awareness of the importance and benefits of home modification funding programs and projects for aging in place is starting to lead to action being taken. It’s a slow process, which can be frustrating and limiting for many of the older population. Still, the signs are there of changes taking place, both nationally and regionally. As the country and government start to recover from the pandemic, perhaps we can begin to shift our focus onto funding for improving LTC and housing for seniors. Now wouldn’t that be the news we’ve been waiting for?