Hammer & Nails thoughts on Age and Accessibility in Edmonton

February 11, 2013
February 25, 2013
Show all

Old tools on a wooden table

Are you affected by old age?

Something happened to me this last year that has started to tug at the corners of my mind and set me on a course of thinking that I haven’t considered before. Age has started to affect me.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not that old. In fact, at 36 years of age, I feel as healthy and vibrant as I did 10 years ago. I’m not affected by my own age, but, instead, I’m starting to feel the effects of my parents’ age and the people of their generation.

I recently read a couple of articles relating to a specific aspect of the business I’m in, accessibility and ageing in place, and it got me thinking about my parents’ situation and the general situation of people here in Edmonton, Canada.

For those that don’t live here, or for those that might not be in the same head space as me (thinking about ageing in place), Edmonton is, in fact, a great city for being accessible. Our municipality has made great strides to ensure that public buildings and commercial spaces are readily accessible for those people who have physical limitations. It’s not a perfect city, but, for the most part, I’d say we’re on par or better than other municipalities in our country or our neighbours to the south.

What causes me some concern, however, is the residential side of things.

Over the last few months, I’ve digested a lot of information, both factual and anecdotal, that suggest that changes need to be made to prepare us for that time when we will face the challenges of aging. Here are some facts from a study done on Aging in Place by the City of Edmonton Community Services in 2007:

– Canadians aged 85 and over represent the fastest growing segment of the total senior population. In 2006 in Edmonton there were 10,625 people over 85 (7,385 women and 3,240 men) and a further 13,060 between 80 and 84 (8,040 women and 5,020 men). Projections indicate that, by 2030, the number of Edmontonians over 80 will have increased by 158 percent.

– Three quarters of the city’s seniors (65 and older) own and live in their own homes. Approximately four out of five have paid off the mortgage. Most of the 42,000 Edmontonians over 75 live in a few neighbourhoods in the southeast and northeast of the city, many in houses built in the 1970s or earlier.

– The design of a typical Edmonton house is not conducive to aging in place (steps to the entry, etc). However, the availability of housing options between independent living and assisted or institutional living is in short supply.

And, here are some anecdotal pieces of information about accessibility:

– In new home construction, accessibility has taken a back seat to other features, such as walk-in closets, air conditioning, hard surface counter tops, and landscaping.

– The current residential building codes in the City of Edmonton do not adequately meet the needs of accessibility.

My take away from this information, whether it is factual or not, is that accessibility is on peoples’ minds and we can’t wait for building codes to change in order to meet the inevitable demand for accessibility in our homes. We have to start planning our homes with our future in mind, whether it be new home construction or home renovations.

So, am I talking about including an elevator in your new home or your next renovation project? Of course not. However, ensuring that there is adequate space for one should the need for an elevator arise is not as big of an expense as you might think, especially if you home is still a concept drawing on the desk of your architect. If you’re looking at turning that older home into a more accessible friendly place, accessibility plans can be incorporated in just about any renovation project for less cost than waiting until you absolutely need your place to be made accessible.

If you’re in the Greater Edmonton area and are looking for a contractor for you renovation project, visit our website at www.nordalta.com/contact.php to find information on how to contact us. We’d be happy to speak to you about what we can do to get the ball rolling on your next home or office project. You can also leave comments with us at info@nordalta.com.

Michael Breault is a project coordinator for Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Michael and Nord Atla Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaConstruction, on twitter at www.twitter.com/Nordalta, and on LinkedIn.

Robert Breault is the president and owner of Nord Alta Construction. You can find the company website at www.nordalta.com. You can also find Robert and Nord Alta Construction on facebook at www.facebook.com/NordAltaContruction and on LinkedIn.