Jenna Roddick

A Review of Housing Challenges Experienced by Older Canadians

AUTHOR(S) & CREDENTIALS: Jenna Roddick, Coordinator: Research and Knowledge Translation


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Samuel Hunter, Research Assistant

What inspired you to begin working on this project? Describe the main issue or challenge the project aims to solve.

Older Canadians have expressed their desire to live their later years in their own homes and as independently as possible. Governments are interested in investing in better supports to ensure that older adults have the opportunity to remain in their homes or community for as long as possible. A key barrier to aging in place is the inability of a home to suit the changing needs of older Canadians. With the occurrence of changing needs that come with aging, there are important health and social factors that can force an individual into deciding on an alternate living arrangement. Increasing investments in a diverse housing continuum that can support the varying needs of an older population will assist seniors in successfully aging in the place of their choosing. With reductions in public spending in the areas of social housing, supportive services, and home care, there are significant barriers to aging in place. Barriers such as increased user fees for home care services, caregiver burnout, and unaffordable housing have substantial impacts on older Canadians and their ability to successfully age in their home and community. Firstly, the increased cost of user services in home care lead to much reliance on volunteer/unpaid support from family or friends, however, without access to these caregivers, seniors would likely end up in an institution to have their needs met. Secondly, caregivers have expressed feelings of distress related to the challenges of their caring responsibilities in that there is a high emotional demand and often their duties are time consuming and stressful. Thirdly, with low- or fixed-incomes, many seniors experience the challenges of finding or staying in affordable housing that is appropriate for their changing needs . The reasoning why an older adult may transition into some other form of living to have their needs met is highly personal, circumstantial and complex.

Briefly summarize your project.

The evidence synthesis on the topic of housing was conducted to better understand the documented challenges faced by Canadian seniors when it comes to aging in the place of their choosing.

Discuss some of the past, present, and/or intended future real-world applications of this work.

Affordability, adequacy, and suitability are the three standards which CMHC describes as core housing needs. A household is considered in need if one of these three standards are not sufficiently met. Affordable housing must be less than 30 percent of the household’s before tax income, suitable housing must meet housing space needs in terms of number of bedrooms in efforts to prevent crowding, and adequate housing must be free of any major repair needs . In a report by the CMHC, 28.2% of senior households were considered to be living in core housing need. The incidence of having CHNs was substantially higher among senior renters (32.8%) compared to senior homeowners (7.7%), and single-person households were reported to be more vulnerable to having core housing needs. For seniors, generally, affordability was the major reason for being in core housing need . More specific groups of households, which include but are not limited to seniors, reported differing reasons for having CHNs. Firstly, 18% of Indigenous households have CHNs compared to 12% of non-Indigenous households. The main issues are that the dwelling is in need of major repairs, and they are more likely to experience overcrowding in the home . It is worth nothing that these statistics were collected from off-reserve households and do not accurately represent challenges faced by Indigenous peoples living on-reserve. For visible minority groups, 20.1% were in core housing need, affordability being the major factor . The CMHC identifies CHNs for vulnerable groups in order to target where support programs are needed. Understanding what the particular needs are in regard to housing for these vulnerable populations will allow policy-makers to appropriately target supports and programs that address the gaps existing within the social system.

If applicable, identify any important policy implications this work may have.

The literature provides not only valuable insights into the challenges and needs of older adults in regard to housing, but also offers opportunities for systemic changes or innovative practices for adoption. Governments, both provincially and municipally, have many opportunities to build partnerships and work on initiatives such as: retrofitting homes to improve accessibility, sustaining investment in subsidized housing, supporting the delivery of affordable rental housing and investing in accessible and convenient public transportation and accessible streets. The accessibility and availability of support services that help seniors face life events as they occur are crucial. Services that take an empowerment-based model to allow older adults to thrive and become or maintain self-reliance should be a core focus on supporting the prevention of consequences such as homelessness.