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A provincial guide to senior housing options and home care

Ageing is inevitable and it comes with plenty of benefits. Baby Boomers can retire in a city they love, focus on their passions and spend more time with friends and family. Another benefit that can greatly impact your lifestyle as a senior is the financial assistance you’re eligible for to help you secure proper housing.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) found that the number of senior households living in core housing increased by 21% from 2011 to 2016. CMHC defines core housing need as housing that, “falls below at least one of the adequacy, affordability, or suitability standards and [a person] would have to spend 30% or more of [their] total before-tax income for alternative local housing that is acceptable.” 

While many situations can prompt a senior to require housing assistance, the most common include:

  • Inability to upgrade or repair current accommodation to provide a safe or suitable environment;
  • Lack of space or privacy;
  • Housing costs exceed the standard 30% cap (where no more than 30% of your before-tax income should go to housing costs).

To ensure you can enjoy all the benefits of ageing, without worrying about the financial burden of living in inadequate, unaffordable or not suitable housing, we created a provincial guide to senior housing. We discuss the types of financial help available to seniors, common senior home care services and highlight resources for seniors in each province. 

Types of financial help available to seniors 

There are various benefits that seniors in Canada can qualify for if they are in need of financial assistance. Consider finding relief in one or more of these categories. 

Graphic showing the types of financial help available to seniors

Assistance programs

Canada has a variety of assistance programs for those who are over a certain age. For instance, the Old Age Security (OAS) pension provides a monthly payment to low-income individuals over 65. The amount you receive will depend on how long you’ve lived in Canada but can be as much as $614.14 per month. 

In addition, if you qualify for the Old Age Security pension, you might also be eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) that will provide additional assistance. Both of these assistance programs are income-tested. 

Veteran benefits

Veterans Affairs Canada has many financial programs and services for veterans. For instance, income support provides monthly payments to support your earnings and can be used to pay housing costs. To qualify for these income support programs, you must be a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces. 

Tax credits

There are a variety of tax deductions and credits that Canadians can benefit from. For example, one that might be relevant for seniors is the federal disability tax credit. While this tax credit isn’t age-dependent, many older adults qualify. It gives relief to those who are blind, restricted in basic activities of daily living (speaking, hearing, walking, eliminating, feeding, dressing, mental functioning) or need life-sustaining therapy. 

Another tax credit that is age-specific is the renovation home accessibility tax credit. Homeowners over the age of 65 and who qualify for the federal disability tax credit, can qualify for a non-refundable renovation tax credit. If eligible, you can deduct up to $10,000 on renovation or remodelling costs that are undertaken to help keep you in your home. 

Seniors might also qualify for renter tax credits and property tax help, but the specifics will vary based on your province. For instance, in British Columbia, seniors over the age of 55 can qualify to defer payments on property taxes. The money is repaid when the senior chooses or when the estate is settled. Most provinces have similar programs but qualifications will vary based on location. 

Housing

In addition to these assistance programs and tax credits, each province has specific programs to help with affordable housing. Scroll down to your province to find what housing help is available in your area. 

Energy and utilities

Utilities, such as gas and electricity,can greatly contribute to the cost of homeownership. To combat this cost, your province likely has a low-income assistance program. 

Health care

As you age, health care becomes more important. Your province may have programs to help transport you to your health appointment, cover the costs of approved drug prescriptions and vaccines, aid with home modifications due to a disability and provide free, confidential health advice by phone. 

Food

Ageing can lead to a loss of mobility. If this is the case, everyday tasks like grocery shopping or cooking can become difficult. Foodbank services and emergency food hampers may help reduce these costs. In addition, programs like Meals on Wheels can help deliver food to your home. 

Home care

Many seniors need help living independently or may be considering a long-term care facility. If this is the case, your province can provide resources to help you choose the best option for you. 

For example, in Ontario the Local Health Integration Network arranges all government-funded services for people living at home. Citizens are assigned a case manager, who will determine if you qualify for this home care and what care you need. If you don’t qualify, there are also privately funded home care service companies that can assist you. 

Each province has different guidelines to qualify for government-funded home care. Even if you don’t qualify for a government program, there will be other organizations that provide home care to allow seniors to stay in their own homes with support. Continue reading to learn about the types of support that may be available. 

Common senior home care services to consider

As mentioned above, you or someone you love may need assistance living independently. If this is the case, consult with your doctor and family to determine housing alternatives and what steps you should take. Below are some options you might consider. 

graphic that shows the types of home care services available to seniors

Health care professionals

A health care professional can visit your home to provide care. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Nursing care — taking medications, changing bandages, helping with injury recovery
  • Physiotherapy — assisting with back pain, mobility problems, blood circulation, pain relief
  • Occupational therapy — making day-to-day activities easier, helping with movement around the home
  • Speech-language therapy — stroke recovery, helping with speech difficulties
  • Social work — helping manage stress or family conflict
  • Healthy eating — creating a healthy diet
  • Providing home health care supplies — helping with dressings, walking aids, braces

In this case, the individual can live independently in their home but occasionally requires a visit from a health care professional.

Personal care

A personal care professional is necessary for those who need help with daily care such as bathing, oral care, hair care, skincare, dressing or undressing, eating, using the bathroom, getting in or out of beds or vehicles, or getting to appointments. A care professional can come to your home for hands-on assistance throughout the day. 

While many need daily care, it’s expensive to get this assistance all day, every day. If that much care is needed, living at home likely isn’t the best option. A senior or family member decides how often personal care is needed, which can be anywhere between two to three times a week to two to three times a day. 

Homemaking

It’s important that seniors maintain a safe and comfortable environment. Suppose they are unable to do so on their own. In that case, you can employ a homemaking service to assist you with home activities such as laundry, housecleaning, shopping, banking, paying bills, planning meals or caring for children. 

Assisted living

If you are unable to live independently, you may consider moving to an assisted living facility where professionals are available to help at all times. Assisted living residences can vary from single units in apartments to private homes. They provide housing, personal care services, meals, activities, housekeeping, laundry and an emergency response team. 

End-of-life care at home

If you or a loved one wants to live their last days at home, there are end-of-life care options. These can include nursing or personal care, medical supplies, tests, hospital equipment, pain management and home hospice services. 

Senior housing resources in each province

When it comes to senior assistance, what does your province have to offer? Make sure you are using all the resources available to seniors in your community. We did the digging for you and found senior housing resources to help you lead a happy home life.

British Columbia

British Columbia has many senior aid options for housing. Finding the proper home care in British Columbia should be easier with these resources. 

  • Defer Your Property Taxes: A low-interest loan program that helps homeowners pay their annual property taxes on their residence. Those 55 or older, surviving a spouse or having a disability, may qualify. 
  • Home Owner Grant: Provides assistance paying property taxes to those who are 65 or older. The total grant amount is $845 in the Capital Regional District, Metro Vancouver Regional District and the Fraser Valley. For all other province areas, the total grant amount is $1,045. What value your property is assessed at determines how much of the grant you receive.
  • Seniors Home Renovation Tax Credit: Helps those 65 and older with the costs of certain home renovations. Qualifying renovations include those that improve access to the home or land, improve mobility and functions within the home or land, or reduce the risk of harm within the home or land.  The maximum amount of credit is $1,000 per tax year. 
  • Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI): Assists low-income seniors and those with disabilities with financing home modifications to create an accessible and safe environment. This organization gives up to $17,500 per home to homeowners, renters and landlords. This financing is in the form of a forgivable loan. 

Alberta

Below are a few of the Alberta’s government programs created to assist seniors in need. 

  • Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program: Allows eligible senior homeowners to defer all or part of their residential property taxes. This is possible with a low-interest home equity loan through the Government of Alberta. 
  • Supplementary Accommodation Benefit: Supports seniors who live in a designated supportive living or long-term care facility. This supplementary benefit is combined with the Alberta Seniors Benefit. 
  • Alberta Seniors Benefit: Canadian citizens who are 65 years or older and have lived in Alberta for at least three months can meet financial eligibility requirements to get financial assistance to help with their monthly living expenses. 

Saskatchewan

The province of Saskatchewan has many resources for seniors. From financial assistance for low-income individuals to senior-specific discounts, there are various housing resources available. 

  • Life Lease Program: Seniors wanting to downsize, live among other seniors, find relief from homeownership, need a more affordable place or want a simpler lifestyle may be eligible to live in affordable apartment-style homes. 
  • The Social Housing Program: Helps families and seniors with low incomes and people with disabilities find safe and adequate housing. If you qualify, this program will set your rent at 30% of the household’s program. 
  • Seniors Income Plan (SIP): Provides the senior citizens of Saskatchewan with financial assistance to meet their basic needs. Those living at home can be eligible for up to $270 per month and those in a special care home can receive up to $50 per month. 
  • Special Support Program: Helps residents of Saskatchewan with high drug costs in relation to their income. Those eligible can receive a deductible or copayment on their prescription drugs for the year. 

Manitoba

The province of Manitoba has province-specific resources for residents. Here are a few that are listed on their government website.

  • 55 PLUS Program: Provides an income supplement to lower-income citizens who are 55 years or older. Your eligibility will be dependent on the income in your previous year’s tax return. 
  • Manitoba Pharmacare Plan: Citizens of Manitoba, whose income has been seriously affected by high prescription drug costs, can get their prescription drug costs partially or fully covered. 
  • Rent Assist: Low-income private renters and those who receive Employment Income Assistance (EIA) can receive this additional rental assistance. 
  • Seniors Eyeglass Program: Residents 65 years of age or older who don’t have their costs paid through other provincial or federal programs may be eligible for financial assistance to purchase eyeglasses. 

Ontario

Whether you’re a citizen of a large city, like Toronto, a smaller suburb, like Mississauga or a more remote town, like Elora, the province of Ontario has plenty of resources for seniors. 

  • Ontario Renovates: Provides funding for urgent repairs, renovation and accessibility modification for low- to moderate-income homeowners. You can receive up to $15,000 per unit in funding. 
  • Home and Vehicle Modification Program (HVMP): Those who live in Ontario, qualify financially and have a substantial impairment caused by bodily injury, a congenital disability or illness can receive financial assistance for home and vehicle modifications. 
  • Ontario Drug Benefit Program: Citizens turning 65 years old will automatically join the program. The program covers more than 4,400 prescription drug products.
  • Special Drugs Program (SDP): Citizens can get full coverage for cancer and other special drug treatments not covered by other drug programs. 
  • Connex Ontario: Provides free and confidential health services information for those experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling. 
  • Assistive Device Program: Helps those with long-term physical disabilities pay for equipment and supplies. Equipment and supplies may include mobility aids, hearing aids, communication aids, visual aids, respiratory equipment, home oxygen therapy, artificial eyes and facial prosthetics, and enteral feeding pumps. 

Quebec

If you’re a senior citizen of Quebec, consider these resources for those who are low-income or need additional assistance with their housing. 

  • Independent Living Tax Credit: Residents of Quebec who are 70 or older can qualify for this refundable tax credit. The credit covers incurred expenses on a home modification to that helps them live independently.
  • Domestic Help Services: Provides a reduction for domestic help services such as housekeeping work, laundering, meal preparation and help shopping.  
  • Hearing Devices Program: Those who qualify can have the costs related to hearing aids and assisted listening devices covered. 
  • Visual Devices Program: Those who qualify can access visual devices and receive assistance to take care of a guide dog. 
  • Shelter Allowance Program: Financially assists low-income households that use a large portion of their budget to housing. Those 50 years or older can qualify. 

New Brunswick

The Atlantic province of New Brunswick has a variety of housing resources for senior citizens. 

  • Low-Income Seniors’ Benefit: Assists low-income seniors with additional financial support. Those who have received benefits from Guaranteed Income Supplement, Allowance for Survivor Program or Allowance Program can qualify. 
  • Extra-Mural Program (EMP): Provides health care services to New Brunswick citizens in their homes. You must be a resident with a valid NB Medicare card to be eligible. 
  • Mobility and Adaptive Equipment Loan Program: Those eligible can be loaned specific mobility and adaptive equipment. Equipment should support the performance of their daily activities and allow them to live and be cared for safely. 
  • Hearing Aid Program: Assists with the coverage for the purchase and maintenance of hearing aids that other insurance plans may not cover. 
  • Respiratory Program: Those eligible can get coverage of respiratory equipment and supplies that aren’t covered by other insurance plans. 
  • Vision Program: Assists with coverage of specific vision benefits that aren’t covered by other insurance plans. 

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia citizens can benefit from these senior resources and home care options. Read through to find which ones you can qualify for. 

  • Income Assistance (IA): A program for citizens of Nova Scotia that are in financial need. This includes financial assistance for basic needs such as food, rent, utilities and clothing. 
  • Home Care: Provides Nova Scotians with home care services. This includes personal care, essential housekeeping, dressing changes, catheter care and palliative care.
  • Age-Friendly Communities Grant: Gives funding for projects that lead to more age-friendly communities that will improve the health and well-being of older adults. 
  • Self-Managed Care Program: Those with physical disabilities can hire their own care providers. This financial assistance goes toward the hiring, training, managing, supervising and payment of the care provider.  
  • Supportive Care Program: Eligible citizens with cognitive impairments can get the support of up to $1,000 per month for home support services such as personal care, meal preparation and household chores. 
  • Personal Alert Service: A reimbursement for up to $480 per year for a personal alert assistance service is provided for eligible low-income seniors over 65.

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island is in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a serene location for seniors to retire. Citizens can qualify for the housing benefits below. 

  • Seniors Safe @ Home Program: Provides between $1,000 and $5,000 to seniors to assist with the cost of making changes to their homes to improve accessibility to continue living there. 
  • Home Care Program: Provides services to those who need support to continue living safely at home, have been released from the hospital and are recovering or have an ongoing health issue that requires additional care. 
  • Seniors Home Repair Program: Eligible seniors can get help with the cost of their home repairs. They can receive up to $2,000 for repairs such as roof, window, door or furnace repairs. 
  • Social Assistance Program: Low-income individuals who qualify will get assistance paying for food, shelter, medications, basic dental, glasses and funeral costs. 
  • AccessAbility Supports: Offers financial support and assistance to those living with disabilities, including physical, intellectual, neurological, sensory and mental disabilities. 
  • Palliative Care Program: Helps those with a progressive life-threatening illness and their families. The program provides medical, nursing and other professional care. 

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is the eastern-most province of Canada. The government offers a variety of resources, benefits and financial assistance for senior housing. 

  • Provincial Home Support Program: Public funds can subsidize support required to maintain an individual’s independence.  A functional and financial assessment by professional staff from the regional health authority is required. 
  • Board and Lodging Supplement: Adults with psychiatric, physical or intellectual disabilities who reside with relatives or non-relatives may qualify for funding. 
  • Income Support Benefits: Low-income individuals can apply to get assistance with food, clothing, personal care, household maintenance, utilities, rent or mortgage. 
  • Special Assistance Program: Provides basic medical supplies and equipment to those who qualify. This can include dressings, catheters, oxygen equipment, orthotics, wheelchairs and walkers. 
  • Vision Care: Assists by funding $55 towards the cost of a routine eye exam. It also offers a contribution to the cost of eyeglasses every 36 months for adults.

A step towards happy housing for seniors

Whether their estate planning or looking at other housing options, seniors can qualify for many benefits they might not be aware of. Be sure to read through these resources that your province provides to ensure you’re getting all the help you need. 

Accessibility or financial constraints shouldn’t be a hurdle that prevents you from enjoying the benefits of ageing. 

For more guides that will help you secure the right type of home for your situation, check out the Zolo Homebase Blog

Resources:

CMHC | 211 Ontario | Government of Canada

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Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo Homebase. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including CBC.ca, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards. Her north star is to consistently provide actionable, valuable and accurate information that helps elevate the financial literacy of everyone.