For the first time in Canada, there are more people over the age of 55 than there are children.
By the year 2041, there will be more than 16 million Canadian seniors. That represents over 25% of our total population.
Industry professionals need new tools to understand how to meet the needs of Canada’s seniors. To help, CMHC released an updated edition of Housing for Older Canadians — Designing the project. This is a key guide to this unique market:
Who are “older Canadians”?
“Older Canadians” means anyone living in Canada who is 55 years of age or older. This represents an incredibly diverse group of people, with a wide range of needs and resources.
Some older Canadians are still working full- or part-time. Some are empty nesters who are looking to downsize. Others are retired, about to retire, or live in nursing homes or long-term care.
In general, today’s older Canadians are healthier and better off financially than past generations. However, they can also have wide variations in their health, income and financial security. As a result, it is difficult to make any useful generalizations about them.
One thing is clear: Canadians are living longer than ever before
As our population ages, our housing industry will need to provide a wider range of housing supports, services and options.
Trends that are shaping the seniors’ housing market
Today’s older Canadians are also redefining the way we think about retirement. More seniors are working longer than ever before and the average age of retirement is increasing every year.
As seniors work longer, there’s a growing need for housing with space to work from home. Delaying retirement also means more seniors have the resources to buy or rent homes that better meet their needs.
Since women tend to live longer than men, the gender gap is wider among seniors than any other age group. In 2016, there were only 54 men over the age of 85 in Canada for every 100 women.
Over the last few years, that gap has begun to close. If this continues, there may be a need for larger seniors’ housing, where couples can age together.
Older Canadians today also tend to be healthier, more active and more mobile. This has led to a growing market for lifestyle-focused communities that cater to healthy, active seniors.
As Canadians live longer, more seniors will also need housing with health care and daily living support options.
The decision to move
The majority of older Canadians would prefer to stay in their own homes for as long as they can. Currently, more than 80% of Canadians over the age of 65 live in private homes.
But many older Canadians still need to move each year. There are a variety of “push” and “pull” factors that can influence the decision of whether (or when) to move. These include:
- declining health or mobility
- need to access home equity
- rent increases
- changes in lifestyle
- loss of a spouse
- moving closer to family or friends
- preference for less maintenance
- desire to travel or enjoy a more active lifestyle
The seniors’ housing spectrum
Today, 4 main types of housing characterize the seniors’ housing market in Canada:
- mainstream housing
- active lifestyle projects
- retirement residences
- long-term care
Across this spectrum, housing providers are developing new forms of tenure to make seniors housing more affordable. This includes innovative ideas like:
- 99-year leases or leaseholds
- life lease projects
- co-housing projects
- public-private partnerships
Designing homes and communities for people of all ages
Perhaps the biggest trend in recent years is towards homes and communities that can change over time. This means building homes that can evolve to meet the changing needs of the people who live in them.
Many of these changes are being led by the private sector. Others are the result of private and public partners working together. Some of the more exciting new approaches include ideas like:
- age-friendly neighbourhoods that offer walkability, safety, transportation options, access to services, community engagement and housing choice
- universal design developments that are accessible to everyone, regardless of age or ability
- sustainable housing options like passive design that produce less waste, minimize greenhouse gas emissions and maximize energy-efficiency
- adaptable housing models like laneway homes, lock-off suites and multigenerational housing, which can be upgraded or divided as people age
Change is coming fast and industry professionals need the tools to understand how to meet the needs of Canada’s seniors.