It is estimated that by the year 2036, more than half of all Canadian households will be headed by people 55 years or older6. As the needs of homeowners change, they are demanding more versatility from their housing. Housing with flexible features that can accommodate occupants’ changing requirements easily and inexpensively will be in high demand.
The key to meeting this demand is to make housing as adaptable as possible from the time of construction. An adaptable housing unit can be a standard-looking unit with features that can be tailored to the specific needs of residents as their particular needs evolve, without costly renovations or structural changes. Accessible features like wider doors and corridors, entrances without steps and lever hardware should be part of the unit from the outset. Wall reinforcement allows for the later installation of grab bars or rails; these are less expensive if incorporated during initial construction. Cabinets can be designed to be height-adjustable or removable.
Adaptable housing addresses some of the same concerns as universal design, while catering to an even wider range of needs. Adaptable housing can be upgraded, expanded, divided into extra units or used for a variety of purposes throughout its life. Several models have emerged that demonstrate the opportunities and benefits of adaptable housing.
Adaptability is also very relevant at the neighbourhood scale. A community that offers a range of housing forms (detached homes, row houses, apartments, and others) and of tenure options allows residents to choose different dwelling types and tenure arrangements as their needs change without having to relocate to other neighbourhoods. Housing developments that offer a continuum of care, ranging from self-contained units for independent living, to housing with a higher level of support, to a full-care housing arrangement, enable residents to make these transitions without moving away.