There’s no place like home. Whether it’s based on familiarity, comfort or fond memories, “home” is important to many of us—and the 2014 Sun Life Canadian Unretirement™ Index confirms it.

According to this year’s study, almost six in 10 Canadian homeowners (58%) have no plans to sell their property in retirement. They want to stay where they are for as long as possible, an approach known as “aging in place.”

The Government of Canada defines aging in place as having the health and social supports and services needed to live safely and independently in your own home or community for as long as you wish or are able. Doing so will require a plan and some clients may turn to you for advice—financial or otherwise. Here’s some general information to help with those discussions.

Home renovations

Although aging affects everyone differently, some of the most common issues involve balance, mobility, vision and strength. Among the home renovations that encourage greater safety and accessibility are:

  • more or brighter lighting (indoors and out),
  • handrails along stairways and grab bars in bathrooms,
  • zero-barrier or flush entryways,
  • ramps and widened doorways,
  • non-slip flooring,
  • walk-in tubs and tub seats,
  • adjustable counter heights,
  • levered door handles (versus door knobs),
  • chairlifts and elevators, and
  • emergency response systems.

Encourage your clients to consult several professional home renovators about ideas and options, including how to incorporate them in an aesthetically pleasing (versus clinical) way. Written quotes from each contractor are important for comparison purposes and references are a must. They can also learn more about hiring a contractor through the Canadian Home Builders’ Association website.

As for financial advice, if budget’s an issue, suggest a phased approach to renovations versus doing everything at once. Some clients’ permanent life insurance may have accumulating cash value they can access periodically to cover expenses.* Tax credits related to seniors’ home renovations (currently available for residents of Ontario and British Columbia) can also help cover costs.

Support systems

When clients are in good health—before retirement or early into it—a discussion about support systems may seem premature, but it’s never too early to start planning.

An initial support system may be as simple as family members helping with home maintenance—lawn mowing, cleaning and shovelling snow. In time, it might mean assistance with errands and finances. But as health declines and clients need help bathing, dressing or with medical care, family may no longer be able or qualified to help, which begs the questions:

  • Are these services available in my community?
  • What do they cost?
  • Are any costs covered (in full or in part) by the government?
  • Am I adequately insured? Do I need to explore long-term care solutions?

Encourage your clients to ask their health-care provider about services in their community or do some online investigation. By searching the Internet for “senior health-care services” or “senior home care” within a province or city, they’ll discover resources in their area. In Ontario, for example, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website offers detailed insight on types of care, arranging for care and looking for a provider. For clients in Alberta, the Alberta Health Services website lets them explore available programs, services and service providers based on location.

Sun Life Financial’s Money for Life ‘Why health?’ video is another excellent resource. It shows clients how their needs will change in retirement and the importance of planning. It can also help you start conversations about health insurance, to enhance your clients’ support system.

Home sweet home

For many Canadians, aging in place is a high priority. It will also require careful planning, in and around their home, and they may ask you for advice. Use the information here to help them learn more and enjoy their retirement in familiar surroundings. Familiar, safe and accessible surroundings.

*Accessing cash values within a permanent insurance plan may have tax consequences. Clients should obtain legal and/or tax advice before proceeding with any withdrawal arrangements.

Find more tips about home safety in Is your home safe for seniors?, featured in Brighter Life.

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