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Canadians and their physicians from coast to coast to coast are speaking up. If health and health care matter to you, become a CMA Health Advocate today! Together, we can put health care back on the agenda.

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Aging in Place

Whatever form it takes—spacious suburban bungalow or urban condo—our homes are more than roofs over our heads. We invest them with memories and emotions.

Little wonder, then, that a 2013 survey found that 83 percent of us want to age in place by remaining in our current dwelling for as long as possible.

As a concept, aging in place seems simple enough, but consider the variety of factors that must be weighed to make it a reality — either personally or an aging family member. Aside from the financial factors — can you afford to stay where you are? — are there physical and social practicalities? Is the house suited to an aged person who may have diminished mobility, sight or intellectual capacity? Is there sufficient social interaction to ensure a healthy lifestyle?

With Canada’s senior population continuing to grow, so too are the number and range of resources and getting clear overview what is available and what should be considered is very valuable. One useful too is the extensive set of online resources curated by Employment and Social Development Canada. That site includes a link to a comprehensive pamphlet, “Thinking About Aging in Place” that is produced by the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors.

Canada Mortgage and Housing also maintains an online portal of aging in place resources (https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/acho/) that includes some useful links to accessible and adaptable housing.

A Montreal-based not-for-profit organization, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, has also just published a paper on how Canada’s suburbs can become more suited to seniors (http://irpp.org/research-studies/insight-no14/).

One way that some communities are addressing the issue is by accommodating “cohousing”, which is an arrangement of living spaces designed to increase sharing of key components and decrease costs. The Canadian Cohousing Network (cohousing.ca) has a deep site that includes a comprehensive FAQ page and a directory of the 14 cohousing projects that are currently in place.

An increasing number of builders, contractors and others have obtained a Certified Aging in Place Specialist certificate. Overseen by the National Association of Home Builders (http://www.nahb.org) in the US, the CAPS program has a Canadian-specific syllabus that focuses on the unique needs of Canadian homes and climates. This specification is useful for Canadians looking to analyze existing housing or design new housing,

Despite that range of resources, Canada lags behind the US, where the National Aging in Place Council (http://www.ageinplace.org) is lobbying on behalf of the growing number of seniors who wish to remain in their homes.

Here in Canada, the CMA is calling for creation  of a new targeted home care and palliative care innovation fund. Its definition of home care includes an array of services provided in home and community settings, such as health promotion and teaching, rehabilitation, support and maintenance, palliative end-of-life care and integration and support for family caregivers. In the CMA’s proposal, home care could be expanded by investing in new innovative models and scaling up promising practices already taking place across the country.