The Importance of Ageless Design in Your Forever Home

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As downsizing real estate experts, we know there are many facets to a successful third age. That’s why we align ourselves with all the relevant industries and causes that service our clients best. Ultimately, we sell homes that actually work for your next chapter, and part of that equation is to ensure your new property supports accessibility and useability in the future. As a result, we are big proponents of the living-in-place (AKA aging in place) design movement happening in Canada, taking its cue from Scandinavian countries who are leading in this category worldwide. By implementing ageless design in your home, this safeguards you from being forced to move again ensuring your continued autonomy.

In this blog post, we had the pleasure to speak with one of Canada’s leading experts on Living in Place, Accessibility and Wellness design for the home.

UP-CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH LINDA KAFKA

Linda Kafka, Age In Place, Universal Design

Since 2009, Linda has been a valuable and trusted resource for the residential interior design-build industry. As a WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP), Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP) and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), she offers an unparalleled understanding for creating “forever” homes for clients of all ages and abilities. Her passion is to support, educate and train the trades about the importance of creating beautiful as well as safe spaces that are tailored towards inclusion, accessibility and wellness.

Here is an excerpt from our chat on improved livability practices for the home.

Transitions Realty: When it comes to design features that are essential to incorporate in our homes as we age, what is the difference between Aging in Place and Universal Design? Does Universal Design accommodate the needs of the 55+ population? Does it offer more function and safety features or less?

Linda Kafka: Aging in place focuses on the individual, allowing one to age in place in their home with independence while taking safety, security, comfort and ease of use into consideration. It also comprises functionality, as well as emotional attachments and meanings of homes, neighbourhoods, and communities. The idea is the home should be designed in a way that adapts to changing needs over a lifespan and home modifications may be customized to support progressive conditions and also urgent needs. But for the most part, it is about taking design elements into consideration that offer the greatest amount of independence within a space.

Universal design (UD) in the simplest of terms focuses on usefulness. It’s our ability to interact with products, spaces and even services in person or virtually. UD emerged from the barrier- free concept. The term was coined by architect and accessibility advocate Ronald Mace, who was confined to a wheelchair. It is  based on seven principles that support usable products and environments to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. It does not, however, consider any progressive condition as it is about serving a wider number of people vs. customized solutions for one’s needs. 


In short, UD offers features for broad use whereas aging in place targets specific needs of individuals.

TR: Although it isn’t enforced by legal building standards in Canada yet, I know you do a lot of work with international experts where living-in-place design is regulated and already part of the design landscape. How does Canada fare on this front globally?

LK: We have accessible standards for commercial/institutional/healthcare sectors. Residential is not driven by the building code to the extent that other sectors are. However, there is a lot of discussion and movement to change this. For example, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is currently creating accessible standards for residential that should be available in two years.

Interior designer woman at work. Design and interior decoration workspace

TR: What credentials should Canadians be looking for in a designer or architect if they want to incorporate living in place in either their present or future home?

LK: Look for WELL AP credentials for wellness in the built environment; CAPS Certified Aging in Place Specialist; CLIPP Certified Living in Place Professional.
The Canadian Home Builders Association is currently developing the first Canadian home modification course for renovators, designers and builders, occupational therapists.

I also advise completion of professional training of the Rick Hansen RHFAC program. https://www.rickhansen.com/become-accessible/professional-training.

FACT: She is a trailblazer

Linda is the founder, organizer and host of LivABLE Environment Conference, a bi-annual three-day virtual B2B trade event. Modelled on the TED-talk meet-and-greet format with multiple keynote speakers, the event provides endless education on ageless living, accessibility and wellness supporting developers, architects, designers, builders and renovators in the residential sector who are interested in solutions that meet the needs of all building users.

TR: I know you founded and organized the first LivABLE Environment Online Conference in October 2020 and the success of bringing international experts to the forum has increased the interest in this movement in Canada so much so that you are in the midst of organizing a second event taking place from April 28 to 30. With such deep knowledge in this area, what do you foresee for Canada’s future in design?

LK: Rapid movement to improving residential design to support living in place and wellness in the home, much like what Australia is doing. Ageless design is gaining popularity as no one wants to be stigmatized by age or a disability.  New accessibility standards for residential to guide renovators and builders as Canada seeks to become a more accessible country. More focus on inclusive neighbourhoods, walkable cities, going back to traditional neighbour styles with the return of the porch. Aging in place or living in place actually supports sustainability meaning that if done right, the space will not need to be renovated avoiding construction debris going into landfills. I foresee that the baby boomers are changing the face of interior design.

TR: When will inclusive, accessible, wellness in design be incorporated in all industry building standards in your opinion?

LK: Accessibility will happen first through legislation. It’s just a matter of time before we see residential implementing accessibility standards.

Wellness will be consumer-driven, and as consumers, we are getting more educated and demanding these products. The wellness real estate sector is a $134-billion-dollar industry and rapidly growing. Consumers are understanding the value and demanding healthy environments. This was already in motion pre-pandemic and was just escalated by COVID. 

Read our article on Living In Place design in ACTIVE LIFE Magazine.

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