The Effects of Home and Property Maintenance on Seniors in Canada
Canada’s population is aging. There are now more seniors in Canada than there ever was in history. According to results from a 2015 Canadian census, over 15% of our population consisted of people over the age of 65. Canada’s aging population will continue to take up a larger share of the total population. By 2024, it is estimated that they will make up 20.1% of our population. By 2036, it is projected that seniors will consist of 25% of Canada’s population. People of 85 years of age and older make up the fasting growing age group in Canada, growing by 127% between 1993 and 2013. Statistics Canada predicts that there will be over 62,000 Canadians aged 100 and older by 2063 (Canadian Medical Association, 2016).
The rise in life expectancy in Canada’s aging population, partly due to advances in medicine, nutrition, sanitation, and education, is a significant accomplishment. This is a cause for celebration. However, population aging presents difficulties to individuals in terms of handling their instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) at home, negatively impacting their quality of life. IADLs include cooking, using technologies, housekeeping, property maintenance, and more (Lawton & Brody, 1970). Quality of life refers to the general well-being of individuals, encompassing physical, social, functional, and financial factors (Paskulin & Molzahn, 2007). Even if an individual has a high life expectancy, he or she may not be able to reap the benefits of a full and satisfying life.
Today, more seniors are choosing to age in place at home, rather than live in a retirement home. Aging in place includes having the health and social services necessary to live independently and safely in one’s home for as long as they want and are capable. This is beneficial with regards to a senior’s sense of attachment to their home and property. Aging in place gives seniors comfort and security because long-term emotional connections to environmental stimuli have been linked to well-being as people age. Seniors want to make their own choices about their living arrangements and access to services (Wiles, Leibing, Guberman, Reeve, & Allen, 2011).
Statement of Objectives
In this paper, I will explore the effects of home and property support on the quality of life for seniors aging in place in Canada from beyond the biomedical sphere. I will do this by executing a literature review on the topic. I intend on examining and unpacking themes of functionality, independence, and autonomy when conducting my research.
My topic derived from three main disciplines, which were health sciences, social sciences, and applied sciences. Qualitative and quantitative data was sought from several online databases accessed through Western Libraries, being PubMed, Scopus, JSTOR, CINAHL, Academic Search Complete, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. The key words that were used to search for journals and books were “Home” OR “Property” AND “Support” OR “Maintenance” AND “Seniors” OR “Older Adults” AND “Quality of Life” AND “Aging in Place” AND “Canada”.
Overview of the Literature
Majority of the research collected on this population can be broken down into three categories which affect the quality of life for seniors; finance, safety, and health. Home and property maintenance may seem discouraging and costly. However, routine checks saved seniors a lot of money long-term. They did not have to deal with the much larger costs associated with replacing utilities and appliances once they were beyond repair. For example, seniors who have checked their air conditioning unit at least once a year saved more money by preventing long term damage. Preventative maintenance not only increased their quality of life, but also raised the estate value of a senior’s home over time (Control4, 2017).
Demographic, economical, and political pressures have pushed the government to prioritize home care programs and services. Although some seniors were eligible for services after providing their proof of income and disabilities, many were placed on a waiting list or did not receive any services at all. Allocation of publicly-funded services was based on level of need because seniors with a higher functional capacity, and less cognitive impairment, required less support. Also. the older the individuals were, the more likely they were in need of assistance (Markle-Reid et al., 2008).
When support was not available through the government, seniors who chose to age in place had two options. Firstly, they attempted to gain support from informal caregivers, such as friends and family. This was difficult for many seniors because their friends and family were not always available to attend to their needs. Secondly, they sought help from private companies; this form of support tended to be the most effective. Lastly, the seniors who could not get help from either of these sources had to manage on their own, which was not sustainable. (Markle-Reid et al., 2008).
Safety was heavily associated with accessibility support, which was one of the most requested services by seniors (Clough et al., 2007). The most common type of support requested was a grab bar installation, especially in the bathtub, to reduce the likelihood of falling. Falls are the primary cause for injury-related hospitalizations for Canadian seniors. The number of self-reported injuries due to falling increased by 43% from 2003 to 2010. Most falls resulted in fractured or broken bones; over one third of these falls were associated with a hip fracture. The number of deaths due to seniors falling has increased by 65% between 2003 and 2008. In addition, there are negative mental health outcomes associated with falling, such as fear of falling, anxiety, loss of autonomy, immobilization, depression, and greater isolation (Stinchcombe, Kuran, & Powell, 2014). Home and property maintenance also increased the safety of seniors’ homes. Break-in and robberies tended to occur in homes with poor exterior maintenance because they looked neglected and easy to enter (Clough et al., 2007).
Inadequate home and property conditions were linked to a variety of different health conditions. Characteristics of poor housing included lack of safe drinking water, absence of hot water for washing, ineffective waste disposal, deficient food storage, and invasion of disease vectors such as rats and insects. Substandard housing was associated with having an increased risk for chronic illnesses. Cold, damp, and moldy home conditions were linked to contracting asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses; even after confounding factors, such as social class, income, smoking, unemployment, and crowding, were controlled for (Krieger & Higgins, 2002).
Substandard housing also affected the mental health of older adults. Social intolerance and irritability were associated with extremely hot or cold indoor temperatures. Cold, damp, and moldy circumstances were linked to anxiety and depression. Crowding was coupled with psychological distress, especially amongst women. Inadequate home conditions made seniors reluctant to invite their friends to their home because of these poor conditions, which led to greater social isolation. A senior’s perception of their home was correlated with their levels of pride and satisfaction, ultimately affecting their quality of life (Krieger & Higgins, 2002).
A recurring theme found throughout the literature was increased functionality as a result of home and property support. These technologies were useful for older adults regarding areas of emergency help, assistance with hearing and vision impairment, detection and prevention of falls, temperature monitoring, automatic lighting, stove and oven safety control, home and property security, and monitoring physiological parameters. However, there were concerns regarding privacy violations as a result from camera use, lack of human connection when getting assistance, and user-friendliness of such devices. There was also a need for training on how to use these technologies. According to seniors, even the most advanced technologies were pointless if there was nobody at the other end to teach them how to use them. However, majority of seniors had a positive outlook towards smart home support and believed that it increased their quality of life by allowing them to increase their functionality. Most of them were willing to use technologies that were readily available to them as long as there was minimal or not too much responsibility on the part of the user (Demiris et al., 2004)
Another common theme presented was independence, which is a crucial part of successful aging. Aging in place was a common method for seniors to maintain their independence. When older adults experienced challenges when maintaining their home and property, their goal of aging in place became jeopardized. The capabilities of seniors changed over their lifespan and was for the most part predictable. For example, there was typically a decrease in strength, vision, hearing, and working memory. The accompanying unpredictable changes included spontaneous accidents, such as a senior falling down the stairs and breaking his or her leg. These events tend to decrease an older adult’s quality of life (Fausset, Kelly, Rogers, & Fisk, 2011).
The environment in a senior’s home also had the potential to fluctuate in terms of demands placed on these older adults in both predictable and unpredictable ways as well. Predictable maintenance included sweeping and mopping floors, changing furnace filters, mowing the lawn, and changing light bulbs. Unpredictable maintenance included repairing roof shingles and water damage caused by thunderstorms. The capacity to which older adults were able to handle such situations depended on their level of independence (Fausset, Kelly, Rogers, & Fisk, 2011).
It does not hurt to seek help from professionals with regards to IADLs in the home. Some may be skeptical and think that this would take away from their independence if they were to have professionals do the work for them. However in these cases, seniors should allow workers to help them get the job done, rather than having the professionals handle everything. Seniors also had more free time when getting assistance from the government, informal caregivers, or through paid services.
Autonomy was another prevalent theme. When seniors did not have to maintain their house and property all the time, they spent their precious time engaging in activities that they loved and were passionate about. Seniors engaged in more activities and hobbies because they had more free time to learn and build the necessary skills required to perform. When doing so, these seniors also built their self-efficacy and did things that they themselves thought that they were never capable of (Gitlin et al., 2006).
Home and property support play a major role in the quality of life for seniors these days as more seniors are choosing to age in place. Seniors are typically capable of carrying out their IADLs at home. However, that is not always the case as age, health, and functional capacity interplay as well. The older seniors are, the more likely they are to be in need of assistance in areas of home and property support. These areas include accessibility, housekeeping, cleaning, security, lawn mowing, and much more. Publicly funded services can be taken advantage of by low-income earning seniors, but they are typically of lower-quality caliber when compared to informal support or paid services. Home and property maintenance may seem expensive at first, but it saves money long-term and is associated with increased safety, independence, and autonomy as long as their unique living situation was considered.
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