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Can Your Family Home be the Retirement Home?

By Ronny Wiskin, CEAC

Today, more families are seeking alternative options to long-term care for their elder loved ones and the opportunity to take charge of personal health and wellness is a shift that society is embracing.

So, why is it, that so many people are choosing to live out their golden years in the comfort of home with family or friends, instead of settling in to a retirement home?

The thought of moving into a retirement home usually begins when managing daily routines becomes difficult to maintain, so the call for change begins as a way to feel safe and connected. When this starts, it can feel like moving is the best option to remain comfortable and secure. Does moving from a fully furnished family home into a nice, but tiny dorm style room make sense for today’s dignified families?

What will happen to your families’ belongings before a move into a smaller space can happen? Many people will downsize by storing, selling or giving possessions away, so that the new residence can be maintained and start off uncluttered for personal health and safety reasons. What will happen to your family home if the elders decide to move in? Especially if de-cluttering your own place needs doing. Has upsizing into a larger home been discussed? Could this accommodate many family members’ privacy, space and belongings? How would life work if we all moved in together? Will our combined equity and assets give our family more flexibility to hire additional help when needed?

When moving into retirement living, people are motivated to live a more manageable lifestyle. A common belief is that retirement residences will have help available whenever needed. It’s also believed that the physical environment will accommodate long term accessibility needs if a loss of mobility occurs. Unfortunately, this can’t be possible in either scenario because barrier free design has not been required under late residential building codes and help with homemaking or personal care will cost too much money for most retirement homes to include in monthly rental fees. Yes the social aspects can be great, but community/cultural centres and social environments for senior adults and elders are available in most urban communities.

Moving into a retirement home will often present some of the same challenges as the existing home. If an injury or illness occurs, performing activities of daily living can be difficult to maintain independently, no matter where you live. Help will need to be brought into the retirement home when individual care attention is needed.

Moving into a nursing home is a common solution for people that require full time assistance, although this personal help will cost over and above the standard living expenses anywhere you go. This is why many of today’s families are choosing to adapt their homes in order to meet the long term care & accessibility needs of multiple generations of family. By bringing a mix of family, private and government provided care services into the home, it allows for a more economical and comfortable lifestyle that avoids having to move away from home when natural changes in lifestyle occur.

North American homes built before and during the 1900’s were not planned with barrier free living or wheelchair friendly access in mind. This is because most local building codes did not specify disability features as a mandatory requirement for residential construction.

There is a greater demand for accessibility today, so the standards are beginning to change by adapting to meet the specifications for practical built-in accessibility features. Of coarse what’s practical for some, may not suit others – Universal Design, is looking to improve best practices in the building industry to help identify and solve these issues, which allow people to “age in place.”

What improvements can be made in order to remain in the home with family members/care givers? Modifications can be made to houses, condominiums, retirement homes and long term care facilities alike. Adaptations are made so that residents are able to live, work and play to the best of their abilities with minimal need for assistance, this is because accessibility achieves greater independence. Considerations should be made to achieve independent living and fall prevention to ensure and preserve long term accessibility in the home for all family members.

Contacting a trained professional that can perform a safety and comfort assessment can help identify risks and prevent major injuries at home. You will begin to realize that by making the appropriate changes it will allow you to live more comfortably and remain independent in your own home for as long as you want!


Ronny Wiskin is the founder of ReliAble Independent Living Services, is the current Accessibility Solutions Manager at MED+ Home Health Care and is a certified environmental access consultant. Ronny can be reached locally at 416-477-5960 ext. 409 or by email at

© 2017 the above can not be copied without written permission of the author.