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Housing Options for Seniors in Canada

What Are the Housing Options for Seniors?

As each decade passes, one of our challenging and essential questions is – what are the housing options for seniors? Since the COVID pandemic, polling has shown that older Canadians have overwhelmingly indicated they wish to stay in their homes until the end of life. But at what cost and under what circumstances?

Everyone has their perspective for each life stage. Some people in their 60s and 70s may wish to remain in their family home. By 75 or 80, they may find a home’s upkeep difficult and want to downsize and move to a condo or apartment. Here are the housings options for seniors that we should consider as we age.

When Choosing Housing Options for Seniors, Consider These Factors

Ageing at Home is the Preferred Housing Option

The first choice for most older adults is to age at home or in place. Those with financial resources may wish to age in their own home even if the care costs are steep. Others may decide to choose another option. And if a person must leave their home, research shows that people prefer to live within 10km of their neighbourhood.

Independence and the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Identifying housing options for seniors can be based on lifestyle factors and changing needs. For example, can a person function independently in the community? Can they take care of themselves and their home? Can they perform activities like shopping, planning and preparing nutritious meals, and doing laundry? Can they undertake financial activities and pay taxes and bills?

When it comes to changing needs, there are standardized measures to help track an individual’s ability to live independently. These are called the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). An ADL measures the ability of a person to independently bathe, dress, walk and move about, feed and drink. The Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)require more complex thinking and organization skills.

Safety, Security, Frauds, and Scams

Consider safety, too, when considering housing options for seniors. Mobility and falls are the most obvious consideration, so stairs might not be a good idea. Also, consider the ability to secure the home at night and remember safe practices such as turning off the stove after use. Another safety factor is fraud and scams against seniors. In 2022, $5.4 million was reported lost in Ontario due to scams. And it is estimated that only 5-10% of these crimes are reported.

The Continuum of Housing Options for Seniors

One could see the options for housing as a continuum for quality of life based on lifestyle want and needs. At one end of the spectrum is living independently, driving, and looking after your home and yourself. At the other end of the continuum are those who will eventually require 24-hour care and medical supervision. Along the continuum, there comes a time, whether due to loss of mobility or perhaps cognitive issues caused by dementia, when a person increasingly requires more support.

Multigenerational Housing

The number of Canadian households with more than one generation living together grew by 45% over the last 20 years and now makes up about 7% of families.

Several municipal governments are also looking at garden suites or prefabricated structures. These are typically installed in a backyard or laneway and independent living for older adults near family members on the property.


Cohousing is a planned community that embraces collaboration and sharing. According to the Canadian Cohousing Network, the concept was first developed in Denmark. It was initially conceived so that young families could benefit from supportive multigenerational communities and cope with childcare. Today older adults are embracing the idea of cohousing as it allows them to age in place in a community while retaining their independence and surrounding themselves with a close-knit community of like-minded individuals.

Home Sharing

Home sharing is an alternative housing model where the owner rents out part of their home to a tenant to help with household responsibilities such as cleaning, yard work, or looking after pets. The Burlington Age-Friendly Seniors Council and Community Development in Halton developed a helpful resource kit for this option recognized by the World Health Organization.

Co-operative Housing (Co-ops)

Co-ops are legal associations that provide housing in return for a share in maintenance or other tasks. Some co-ops cater specifically to older people and may be seniors-only buildings.

Life Lease Housing

Life lease housing is a condominium-like option often operated by religious or charitable organizations. Residents pay an amount upfront and monthly fees for the right to live in the home for a specific period.

Adult Active Lifestyle Communities

Adult active lifestyle communities combine independent living with access to support and recreational facilities. An example is Riverbend Golf Community in London, Ontario.

Retirement Homes

Retirement homes are for-profit businesses that offer a range of accommodations, services, and healthcare support. The costs vary depending on the facilities and the level of service and support provided.

Retirement Homes with Assisted Living Facilities

These for-profit businesses offer more intensive care packages, typically with nursing care and some medical supervision. The costs vary depending on the facilities and level of care required.

Retirement Homes with Dementia Care Focus

Retirement Homes with a dementia care focus are for-profit businesses offering memory care at different levels. Many of them provide locked units for clients who are exit-seeking.

Long-Term Care Homes in Ontario

Long-Term care homes in Ontario are funded and controlled by the government of Ontario to provide 24-hour nursing and personal care along with medical supervision. The basic fees are standardized. However, fees vary for additional services such as foot care, vision care, etc. The government issues licenses to not-for-profit homes and for-profit homes. Approximately 40,000 people in Ontario are on the waiting list for long-term care. In the last year or so, there has been significant consolidation in the for-profit homes in Ontario, although it is difficult to get specific information. The Local Magazine in Toronto recently published an interesting article on this development.

To Take Advantage of Housing Options for Seniors, Plan Now

With longevity comes the need to determine how and where you want to live in your later years. Many people want to stay in their homes until the end of life, but at what cost? With some planning and financial resources, many options are available. And to take advantage of some of the options available, it’s essential to plan well in advance for any transition you wish to make.


About Susan J. Hyatt
Susan J Hyatt is the Chair & CEO of Silver Sherpa Inc. A leader and author in the ‘smart aging’ movement, she is a member of the Canadian College of Health Leaders and the International Federation on Ageing. She holds a post-graduate certification in Negotiations from Harvard Law School/MIT and an MBA from Griffith University in Australia. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy specializing in critical care/trauma from the University of Toronto.


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