Archive for the 'Seniors' Category

October 11th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

When was the last time you stumbled out of bed in the middle of the night to the call of nature? Or tip-toed to the kitchen for a late night snack or something to drink? Toe-kick lighting in the kitchen or bathroom can be both practical, good-looking and gentle on the eyes.

LED toe kick lighting contemporary bathroom

I was recently on a Parade of Homes tour where the ensuite implemented a very simple solution to bathroom lighting – they integrated a motion sensor with the toe kick lighting strip. I had an “aha” moment as I recognized this as being a simple and perfect solution. The gentle glow of the toekick light easily provided guidance along the essential path and bathed the entire bathroom in a soft glow. The added benefit would be an easier transition back to sleep.

Whether considering safety in the family bathroom or courtesy to your partner when using the ensuite, there is an automated lighting solution for you!



June 17th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

As our population ages, a question arises in the senior years – Downsize (rightsize) or look at options to age in place, staying in your home and finding a way to unlock the equity in your home to supplement your income.

An article in reviews reverse mortgage options and the advantages and disadvantages of this relatively new mortgage product…

It’s a tempting proposition: after years of writing cheques to the bank to pay off your mortgage, the bank will write a nice big cheque for you.

That’s the allure of reverse mortgages, which allow anybody 60 or older to borrow money against the value already built up in their home. With the number of 60-year-olds in Canada expected to double in the next 25 years, demand for the product is expected to grow.

Seeing that as an opportunity, a new provider of reverse mortgages has arrived in Canada, providing some competition to the Vancouver-based Canadian Home Income Plan, which has become almost synonymous with the product over the past 20 years.

Seniors Money Ltd., based in Mississauga, Ont., started selling reverse mortgages in Ontario in 2007. By this past February, it had expanded into every other province except for Quebec, a market it expects to enter later this year or in early 2009.

There are differences between the two competing reverse mortgage products, but the basics are the same. They allow a person or a couple to convert up to 45 per cent of a home’s equity into cash, providing extra money that can come in handy during the retirement years when there’s an absence of a regular income stream.

A homeowner will usually get a lump sum upon opening an account and will make no interest payments, although the products are offering options now to receive the funds in regular instalments and make some payments along the way.

Home equity gradually decreases as the debt load goes up, but the products are designed to leave a homeowner with at least 50 per cent equity at the end of a reverse mortgage, and promise total charges will never be more than the value of the home. Reverse mortgages get repaid when a homeowner dies, the house is sold, or a pre-determined term ends, often set at 10 or 15 years.

Reverse mortgages are still a niche market; CHIP currently has 6,600 of them outstanding in Canada worth over $700 million. But they appear to be catching on with seniors, who are estimated by Statistics Canada to have 77 per cent of their net worth in their home equity. According to Greg Bandler, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for CHIP, the company’s business is now growing by over 20 per cent a year.

Read full article here

March 1st, 2011
By Vivian Martin

People who inhabit and visit the houses we live in come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from infants to seniors, with various ever-changing abilities and skills. As we grow up, grow old and welcome new people to our homes, our housing needs change. A house or dwelling that is designed and constructed to reflect the principles of universal design will be safer and more accommodating to the diverse range of ages and abilities of people who live in and visit these homes.

When Should You Consider Using a Ramp?

A ramp can be used to overcome changes in level, either on the inside or outside of a home, as an alternative to using stairs.

A ramp is ideal for people who are having difficulty negotiating stairs for various reasons, be it the need to carry heavy objects between levels, move a child in a stroller, or because of a disabling condition. Providing both stairs and a ramp at changes in level will allow people to choose the option that best suits their needs, resulting in a flexible and more universally accessible design.

Ramps are particularly useful for overcoming changes in level up to about 760 mm (30 in.), from the ground level to the level of an entrance for example. Using ramps for greater changes in level requires a great deal of space — which may or may not be practical. If you are faced with a big change in level, installing a lift or residential elevator may be a better strategy than constructing a ramp (see Accessible Housing by Design — Lifts and Residential Elevators). The physical and monetary costs associated with both options should be fully explored when deciding which option will accommodate the greatest number of users.

Ramp Design Strategies

There are typically two strategies used for ramp design: a landscape approach and a structural approach.

Landscape Approach

This approach incorporates landscaping, gently sloping walkways and grading to overcome changes in level (see Figure 2). A safe path with a gentle slope can be built without railings (unless there are abrupt drop-offs on either side, or users need them), resulting in an integrated, low-key design that does not look like a traditional ramp.

The landscape approach is generally limited to smaller changes in level.

Structural Approach

The structural approach involves building a ramp structure — usually using wood-framing construction (see Figures 3 and 4). This results in a more noticeable structure, although its visual impact can be minimized through creative design, landscaping and finishes.

The most common ramp configurations are:

  • Straight
  • Switch-back 
  • U-shaped 
  • L-shaped 

Angled ramps may also be used, but remember that the start and finish of the ramp must incorporate a straight approach. Curved ramps are not recommended as they make steering a wheelchair, walker or scooter very difficult. In some cases, depending on the length of the ramp, landings may be required as resting points.

Read the full CMHC fact sheet on ramps for design considerations and construction options for adding a ramp to your existing property or new home. 

(Source: CMHC – About Your House – General Series)

January 22nd, 2011
By Vivian Martin - Plan # 2268 - Plan # 2268

It’s all one level really needs—1231 sq. ft., one bedroom, one bath and lots of beautiful space to spread out. A modified formal entry greets a welcoming layout with dining room, family room with fireplace, and kitchen-breakfast area. A luxurious full bath with central tub, shower room and private toilet has dual access, one reserved for master bedroom privacy.

A two-bedroom option is included with the plans and an unfinished basement allows for a bit more space for additional bedrooms if desired or perhaps a media room?

For more details on this plan, click here…

Looking for other 1 storey house plans? Check our Bungalow and One Level House Plan Collection,  or Create  a “New House Plans – Latest Trends” Alert to receive all of the latest designs direct to you by email!

Thanks for visiting the DrummondHousePlans Blog!

October 26th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

By Tessa Holloway, North Shore News October 24, 2010

Peter Simpson had never thought too much about where the plugs in his house were located until he had a hernia operation.

“Just a simple thing like bending over to plug in my battery charger in my cell phone, I had to take my time doing it,” said Simpson. “If that power receptacle had only been about six inches or so higher, it wouldn’t have been nearly as challenging.”

For Simpson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association, it was a perfect example of why his organization is pushing to educate homebuilders on how to build houses where seniors can age in place.

For Simpson the problem was temporary, but for many others, the location of electrical outlets can mean the difference between independence and relying on others.

“The only reason they’re at the height they are today is it’s the height of a hammer. It was easy for them just to get their hammer there and draw a line,” said Simpson. “Old habits die hard, I guess.”

Seniors’ accessibility is also a concern being raised more and more by customers, said John Friswell, owner of the North Vancouver-based CCI Renovations.

“A lot of (homeowners) have had homes for a long time and they’re now looking at their house and saying ‘Wow, I’ve got a two-storey house that’s 5,000 square feet, how am I going to stay here?’”

Friswell took a four-day Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) course provided by the home builders’ association a few years ago so he could advise clients, and said he incorporates many of the ideas into every house he renovates.

That includes making sure wood backing is installed behind shower walls so grab-bars can be screwed in later, as well as lowering the height of light switches. He also can install contrasting materials so visually impaired have an easier time navigating or wider doors and larger bathrooms for easier wheelchair access, among other changes.

He also said they try to install houses with deep closets directly above one another in case homeowners decide to install a residential elevator when they’re unable to use the stairs.

Simpson said some seniors are also finding they want to live closer to family, which has prompted several North Shore municipalities to investigate the idea of laneway homes in back yards, so seniors could live with family while maintaining their independence.

“I think more municipalities should jump on board with that, but of course we’ve got some resistance to that,” said Simpson. “I know my parents, if I could have had a coach house in my back yard where my parents could live, they might have considered living there, but they sure as heck weren’t going to give up their house for a nursing home.”

Michael Geller, who is the principal developer on a project in West Vancouver that involves laneway houses – what he also calls “granny flats” – said they also allow for much smaller homes that are just one-storey, and thus have no stairs.

“To my mind the ideal solution is usually a single level unit, which can be at grade with a private outdoor space, which is separate from the main space of the principal dwelling,” said Geller, who is also president of a company that builds laneway homes and has advocated for them since 1974.

Still, he said they’re often too expensive for many seniors, which is a major stumbling block for some.

© Copyright (c) North Shore News

Read more:

August 21st, 2010
By Vivian Martin - Plan # 3222 - Plan # 3222

The first impression is a distinctive exterior appearance but in this bungalow, it is the comfortable living room that impresses!

On the exterior, a well carved mass, double ledged roofs, raised mouldings and brick/stone give this home quite a remarkable presence while the distribution of windows and doors ensure interior brightness.  We need only look towards the double garden doors and the window in the superb living room which is located entirely at the rear.

Once inside and through the foyer, we marvel at a very well-organized kitchen and very bright breakfast area which is lit up by double corner windows. Breakfast is sure to always be pleasurable here!  The welcoming kitchen with central island opens up to a dining room which is located at the heart of this home.  Next, we are left speechless when we step into the comfortable living room with a fireplace nestled between two pairs of garden doors. 

The full bathroom is, as with the rest of the home, very comfortable. The master bedroom includes and enviable walk-in closet and bedroom 2 could easily function as a bedroom, office, or both with a murphy bed.

For more details on this plan, click here…

Looking for other bungalow plans? Check our Bungalow Collection or Create  a “New House Plans – Latest Trends” Alert to receive all of the latest designs direct to you by email.

August 18th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Don’t put the rush job on your parents

By Patrick Langston, Ottawa Citizen 

Photo courtesy of

Downsizing: a word that summons terrifying images of yellowed college essays, Grandma’s cracked tea service, and the mountains of other stuff that we all accumulate. But it gets worse. Where to go when it is time to downsize? Or what about Mum: how are we ever going to convince her to trade the sprawling family home for a berth in a nursing facility?

Doug and Judy Robinson don’t have all the answers. But they have gathered some very good suggestions into their just-released book The Best of the Rest: Downsizing for Boomers and Seniors ($19.95 from General Store Publishing House; online at and

The husband and wife team wrote the how-to book from experience. Owners of Ottawa-based Senior Moves (613-832-0053,, the retired teachers have helped over 1,800 seniors downsize since 1996.

The Robinsons recently launched their book at the Westboro location of Amica, a high-end retirement home chain. As nattily dressed residence staff prepared the adjacent dining room for the evening meal, friends, family and business associates thronged around the Robinsons in Amica’s lounge. Clearly, the couple has struck a chord with their downsizing expertise…

… The Best of the Rest is an easy read thanks to its tips, checklists, questions to help in decision-making, and telling anecdotes from the couple’s business and personal experience…

Read the full article here…

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen


Part of the anxiety of downsizing is the need to have control over the new home. If it is going to be smaller, you may want to option to have a space customized to your needs. Let us help you in the hunt for your new right-sized home by using our custom search at

August 8th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Bathroom safety. It’s a huge issue for older adults — just watch daytime TV and all those ads for step-in bathtubs. But safe bathrooms don’t have to look boring or institutional.

Kohler, a kitchen and bath manufacturer, has launched a new initiative aimed at seniors.

“We’re talking about aging in place and design solutions,” explains Lynn Schrage, marketing manager for the Kohler Store in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. “We wanted to find a way to help consumers understand things that help them out.”

Here are some of Kohler’s solutions:

» Design the vanity with one side for standing and the other with a removable shelf for seated users.

» An uplift mirrored cabinet by Robern (a Kohler company) opens upward with the touch of a finger. Bottom shelves are accessible when seated.

» There’s also an optional built-in TV mount and outlet inside the cabinet to add a flat screen without wires and clutter.

» Choose strong color contrasts to help older eyes see in the bathroom, especially at night.

» Plan on a higher commode than usual for easier mobility.

» Kohler has introduced a new line of spa bathtubs that soothe aches and pains. They combine the durability of cast iron with the technology of bubble massage.

» Bathing can pose problems, so Schrage suggests planning for transfer seating if you still use a tub. Kohler makes a tub with a built-in ledge and its own seat. The ledge serves as a grip rail, and the seat comes with the tub so you can bathe without getting in.

» Roll-in showers offer the next step in safety.

» Install a slide-bar hand shower that can be used standing or seated, suggests Schrage. Another nice option is what’s called a Turnspray. You can adjust and point the wall-mounted spray head.

» Today’s new Rainhead showers infuse the water with air to make the water feel “fuller” without using more water. Other showerheads can feature thermostatic controls so they become intuitive.

» Finally, be sure to install grab bars.

“Kohler has launched a series of decorative grab bars,” she said. “The details and finish match the faucets.”

The newest faucet finish is brushed gold. It’s a rich gold with a deep, vibrant aura, especially when set against the newest cast-iron color: caviar.


Did you enjoy this article? Make sure you look for our other posts on bathrooms and aging in place.

August 5th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

A friend of mine was talking about the experience of caring for her elderly mother and noted, “I never thought our family home (a two story cape, built in the early 1950s) could be so hazardous.” One of her most difficult tasks was helping her mother to the bathroom. “The bathroom is next door to her bedroom but with her walker the halls and doorways are too narrow.  Although we installed grab bars and purchased a shower seat, it’s hard to lift her into the tub. I don’t know how long she will be able to live at home.” 

Homes can become hazardous not only for older adults but even for those with temporary mobility impairments like a teen who breaks a leg in football practice or a person recovering from surgery.

If you’re planning to update or remodel a bathroom consider the following “Universal Design” adaptations to improve access and safety in your home:

  1. Install a no-threshold walk-in shower or mini-threshold water dam shower with minimum dimensions of 5 feet by 3 feet.
  2. Add a built-in shower seat.
  3. Place grab bars in the shower, tub and near the toilet.
  4. Install several showerheads, including a hand-held adjustable height showerhead with easy to operate controls.
  5. Widen the doorway to 36 inches in the bathroom entrance.
  6. If possible, allow for maneuvering space. Ideally, allocate space to accommodate a 60 inch turning radius.
  7. Replace twist handle faucets with lever handle, anti-scald faucets.
  8. Consider installing a pedestal sink. Not only are they attractive, but the sink is accessible to those in your home who use a walker, wheelchair or crutches.
  9. If you are installing a vanity, mount the sink bowl close to the edge for easier use and select cabinetry with easy-glide drawers that close automatically.
  10. Toilets should be centered 18 inches from any sidewall, tub or cabinet and the seat should be 18 to 19 inches off the floor for older persons, lower for children.
  11. Replace round door knobs with lever handle knobs.
  12. Install lighting to provide good visibility when using the shower, tub, sink and toilet. Also, add a night light.

Many bathrooms are part of a master bedroom suite or located just outside the bedroom. To make your bedroom space more accommodating:

  • Add a night light.
  • Install additional electrical outlets to accommodate technology or future medical equipment.
  • Fit closets with multi-level clothing rods or multi-level pull-out drawers and shelving. Don’t use bi-fold doors on closets because they can be difficult to open and close.

The television show “This Old House” has an interesting “how-to” video on Choosing Universal-Design Bath Fixtures. Also, AARP offers a home accessibility checklist for bathrooms.

Source: McClurg’s Home Remodeling and Repair Blog

August 2nd, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Our demographics are changing. According to Health Canada, at the start of this new century, Canada faces significant aging of its population as the proportion of seniors increases more rapidly than all other age groups. In 2001, one Canadian in eight was 65 years or over. By 2026, one Canadian in five will have reached age 65.

With this aging demographic we can foresee some challenges in housing. While we as Canadians can boast an active lifestyle and excellent healthcare, the reality is that some homes become less and less user-friendly with advancing age or disability.

We attended a CHBA meeting where the guest speaker presented on behalf of Access Nanaimo. The speaker was a young lady attending a local University. Although young and vivacious, she was also confined to a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy.  She spoke of some of her trials and tribulations in visiting friends in their homes. She also addressed the aging population and how some simple design and construction considerations could make homes more “visitable”.

This week, we will post a series of blog entries on topics of Universal Access in the residential setting. This may also be referred to as residential design that allows for “aging in place“.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a wealth of information on this topic which is available online or as downloads.

According to the CMHC, Universal design is defined as:

“The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

The concept is an evolving design philosophy.

Principle 1: Equitable Use

This principle focuses on providing equitable access for everyone in an integrated and dignified manner. It implies that the design is appealing to everyone and provides an equal level of safety for all users.

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use

This principle implies that the design of the house or product has been developed considering a wide range of individual preferences and abilities throughout the life cycle of the occupants.

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive

The layout and design of the home and devices should be easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience or cognitive ability. This principle requires that design elements be simple and work intuitively.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information

The provision of information using a combination of different modes, whether using visual, audible or tactile methods, will ensure that everyone is able to use the elements of the home safely and effectively. Principle 4 encourages the provision of information through all of our senses — sight, hearing and touch — when interacting with our home environment.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error

This principle incorporates a tolerance for error, minimizing the potential for unintended results. This implies design considerations that include fail‑safe features and gives thought to how all users may use the space or product safely.

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort

This principle deals with limiting the strength, stamina and dexterity required to access spaces or use controls and products.

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

This principle focuses on the amount of room needed to access space, equipment and controls. This includes designing for the appropriate size and space so that all family members and visitors can safely reach, see and operate all elements of the home.

Stay tuned all this week for further blog posts on this topic.


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