The Future Housing Preferences and Expectations of Older Adults with Unmet Housing Needs

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Ogilvie, Rachel Lynn
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The housing needs of Canadians are changing and issues such as the supply and nature of appropriate housing are especially relevant in Atlantic Canada where we boast the highest proportion of older adults in Canada. In Canada, we identify households in housing need using the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s criteria of core housing need; affordability, adequacy and suitability. These criteria do not take into account the health-related gaps that can exist between a dwelling and its occupants, such as safety and accessibility. These issues could be of particular concern within the context of an aging population.Through a secondary analysis of the Atlantic Seniors Housing Research Alliances’ Seniors’ Housing and Support Services Survey, this research examined the future housing preferences and expectations of 1614 older adults in Atlantic Canada, assessing their level of housing need and the congruence of their future housing decisions. Variables were selected for this study to be as comparable as possible to the current CMHC core housing need criteria. Results showed that both safety and accessibility issues were related to being in self-reported housing need, supporting the addition of health-related criteria to the CMHC core housing need definition. In addition it was found that suitability, as defined by CMHC, was not a significant concern for any of the three housing need groups. Results support the recommendation to expand the definition of suitability to include dwellings that are too large for their occupants. It was found that older adults in housing need do indeed differ from those with met or limited housing needs on a number of socio-demographic characteristics, most notably health and financial status. The future housing expectations of those with met or limited housing need do differ from those experiencing housing need, with those in need more likely to anticipate modifications to or moves from their current dwelling. Interestingly, those in housing need do not differ greatly in their future housing preferences from those with met or limited housing need, with persons at all levels of housing need most likely to express a preference for a single family dwelling in the future. Housing decision congruence, a complex construct, seems to be most strongly related to the current dwelling type of the older adult. Self-reporting housing need, and thus awareness of a housing need, appears to have a positive impact on future housing decision congruence. In the short-term, to address the housing needs of an aging population, it will be necessary to emphasize the importance of funding to and promotion of home modification programs. Awareness and availability of such programs, which serve to close the gap between the dwelling and the individual, may help to maintain older adults in their own homes for longer periods of time. In the long-term, it is necessary to advocate for building regulations that include universal design standards to ensure that new housing is built to be accessible for occupants of all ages. These recommendations will help to keep older adults in their own home as they age, and could offset future demand on the long term care system.
Older Adults , Housing expectation , Unmet housing needs , Canada , Atlantic Canada , Recommendations , Ageing population