Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MIKE HOLMES: Consider senior-friendly home renovations

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It's no secret that Canada has an aging population. By 2036, the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to more than double -- growing to 10.4 million from five million. Baby boomers are getting older and soon we're going to see a big push for more home modifications that help them.

Sometimes these changes are big, such as a full-scale renovation to create a barrier-free home or installing an elevator. But in some cases, a few changes is all it takes to make a world of difference. And it really is a world of difference, because as you get older your home becomes a bigger part of your world. Can you imagine not being able to function in it?

People like being independent. They want to stay in their own homes and function in them easily -- and there are many renovations that can help them do that. For instance, because mobility can become an issue as we get older, more homes will need to be accessible for people in walkers or wheelchairs or for those with conditions such as arthritis.

There are plenty of options. Some of the design features we're going to see more of include kitchen cabinets that can be lowered and raised; wheelchair ramps; wider hallways and entryways; lowered peepholes, light switches, countertops and cabinets; countertop extensions that fold down to make working in the kitchen easier for people in wheelchairs; lever-style doorknobs and light switches, which are easier to use if you have arthritis; and less carpeting (if you're in a wheelchair, carpet isn't your best friend). We're going to see more non-slip flooring, too.

The goal is to improve your home for your new needs -- not necessarily rebuilding the house. For example, specialized kitchen installers can add a hydraulic device to your current kitchen cabinets that lowers and raises them. But sometimes all you need is a simple fix, like installing an offset hinge, which makes a door flush with the door jamb. That opens up the doorway a couple of inches, which could be enough for a wheelchair to pass through.

When mobility is an issue, stairs are your worst enemy. That's why some people are choosing to convert their home's main floor. They'll turn the dining room into a bedroom, combine a closet with a bathroom and add an accessible shower. The renovation can be expensive but it might offer the best solution.

If you're already planning to renovate your home, think about what kind of things would be helpful for you 10 to 15 years down the road. Talk to a pro about it. Make sure they know what the issues are and that they have a lot of experience retrofitting homes to make them senior-friendly.

In a bathroom, it might mean adding a more accessible shower, a bathtub with a seat in it or some grab bars, higher toilet seats, easy-to-use faucets, or wall-mounted vanities.

Most bathroom renos are a complete gut and cost at least $10,000. If you're already spending that kind of money, are you willing -- and able -- to spend another $10,000 to make your new bathroom accessible for you when you get older? I always say, when you spend your money smart you spend it once. Take the time now to make that renovation worth it in the long run.

You have to have a mindset that's proactive about aging. It's like saving for retirement. And you'll get much-needed help from smart contractors who are specializing their skills to serve an aging population.

As long as we get the right pros doing what they do best and start thinking ahead, it's a win-win.

-- Postmedia News

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2013 F14

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