Stay-home seniors skew retirement home outlook in Metro Vancouver

More than nine out of 10 plan remain in their own homes during retirement — but some may not be by choice

Stubborn seniors are skewing the outlook for the retirement residences market in Canada by opting to stay in their own homes when they retire.

In Metro Vancouver, rising debt and the scarcity and soaring cost of seniors’ housing add a dark tinge to the trend, however.

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A recent survey done for HomeEquity Bank by Ipsos found that 93 per cent of Canadian homeowners aged 65 or better said they want to live in their current homes in their retirement years.

The survey, conducted between June 15 and June 18, found that 69 per cent of senior homeowners in Canada wish to maintain a sense of independence. Meanwhile, 51 per cent said that they want to stay close to family, friends, or their communities, and 40 per cent pointed at emotional attachments and memories as their motivation for staying in their own home.

This desire to age in place has resulted in higher renovation spending among older adults.

Altus Group found that homeowners aged 65 or older account for 25 per cent of all renovation spending in Canada where home equity lines of credit were used, while another 38 per cent of such spending was made by those aged 50 to 64 years old.

Separate studies suggest, however, that financial headwinds may be keeping seniors from moving on. In the Lower Mainland there are an estimated 211,000 people aged 75 or over, but there are only 15,421 rooms available in the 141 retirement homes. The resulting vacancy rate for “independent living in seniors’ residences” this year is 1.8 per cent, down from 3.1 per cent in 2017, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Senior Housing Report 2018.

The average monthly rent in the Lower Mainland for “heavy care” retirement homes, where medical supervision is provided, is now $7,419, up from $6,852 in 2017, CMHC reports, and this spikes to an average of $8,808 per month in the city of Vancouver.

For non-heavy care senior housing in Vancouver, the monthly costs range from $1,900 to $2,899 per month, but the vacancy rate is 0.6 per cent, CMHC reports, down from 0.9 per cent in 2017.

Equifax Canada, in an online survey this August by Ipsos, found that Canadians aged 65 and over are also the key drivers of the country’s mortgage debt. Seniors accounted for a 59 per cent in total mortgage transactions and 91 per cent of total balances over the past five years. The survey also revealed that 27 per cent of Canadians aged 45 to 54 say they are not able to save money on a monthly basis.

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