It would be an oversimplification to state that the SAFERHome Society is interested in making your home a safe place to live. While that is one of their goals, it is not the only one, as exemplified by the five tenets of their housing credo represented in the acronym SAFER – Sustainable, Automated, Friendly, Environmental, Recycling. They believe that safe, sustainable housing should be available to everyone, and they are attempting to do their part to make this happen through assistance with home planning, inspections of people’s homes and by providing certification standards for new home builders.
In addition, SAFERHome produces publications, hosts conferences, provides educational programs and tries to advocate for government and builders to get them to adopt SAFERHome standards and practices.
According to the organization, SAFERHomes look better, work better and are worth more on the real estate market than homes that have not been so designated. The key thing is that homeowners’ living space should meet both current needs and have the capability of meeting any needs that might arise in the future as a result of the aging process.
The 19 standards SAFERHome has come up with are all simple and measurable and will not only provide the homeowner with a safe and functional environment, but will also allow the user to remain in place as their situation changes.
The first Baby Boomers started turning 65 last year and there is no stopping the gray wave now. With seniors now becoming a fast growing segment of the population, it is time to consider how and where they will live as they age. While some people may make the choice to move into residences or assisted living complexes; for others, there is an alternative that allows them to remain living in their own home.
The SAFERHome Society is a non-profit entity funded by the BC Ministry of Housing to make people aware that anyone can do this. And while the entire program can be costly to integrate into an existing home, the changes needed to incorporate all 19 standards into a home being built are minimal. In the latter case, homeowners receive the added value of being able to stay in their home, where they are comfortable, as they age. And when it comes time to sell, SAFERHome-certified residences retain their value, which will potentially make them more appealing to buyers.
SAFERHome believes if people have the ability to easily remain in their homes as they age, this will prove beneficial for them and for the healthcare system with fewer accidents and not as many seniors needing to move into full-time care facilities.
The 19-point SAFERHome standards include looking at things like placement and positioning of electrical outlets, positioning of light switches, bath and shower controls, door and hallway widths, among many more common sense considerations. Once a home is built to these standards, the cost to have it certified is only $199 plus tax.
To begin the process, homeowners can register as a SAFERHome member and get in touch with the organization to begin planning the design and construction of their new home. To register or to find out more, visit www.SAFERHomesociety.com or call 604-733-2224.
While on vacation to the Sunshine Coast in 1999, Brad McCannell and his wife Tarren stumbled across the place of their dreams. They were staying at a campground on the shore of a small lake in Pender Harbour when they fell in love with the area and decided they needed to move there and live on the lake.
“There are fewer than 20 lots on this lake,” says Brad, “and when we went into town and told the realtors what we were interested in, they actually laughed and told us all these properties were passed down generation to generation and never came up for sale. We persisted, however, and stayed in touch with the realtors at least a couple of times every year to ask if anything was new and to let them know we were still interested.”
Several years passed until one fateful day when Brad found himself giving a business presentation to a group of people in Germany. In the middle of the session, he noticed Tarren in the audience with a strange look on her face.
“She was on her Blackberry, and I could see she had this amazed expression,” says Brad. “It was a realtor informing us that one of the lots had come up for sale and that if we wanted it we had better put in an offer that day. We did, and bought it sight unseen. We knew we wanted to be there and took the chance. Now we are so glad we did!”
The couple had friends who were building a 2,400-square-foot home not far away, and they decided they wanted a similar home. They hired designer Patrick Simpson, who is involved with the SAFERHome Society, but then took a step back to consider if they needed that much living space.
“Tarren asked me who was going to clean this huge house,” says Brad. “I wondered who would do all the maintenance required on a big home. And why should we pay for more house than we really needed? Patrick started talking to us about the SAFERHome program, true sustainability and aging-in-place solutions. What he brought to our attention is that sustainability is about more than power and water. If you can’t age in place, then your home, itself, is not sustainable. That was a watershed moment for us.”
The result is a spacious feeling 725-square-foot home with a huge deck and carport that was built to be lived in now and to anticipate Brad and Tarren’s potential future needs. The home is easily expandable and adaptable and even utilizes aligned closet space, which can be converted into an elevator shaft, if they ever decide to build up and need an elevator to travel between floors. This consideration would bring the cost of an elevator down to $5,000, instead of the more than $35,000 it would cost without the SAFERHome program in place.
All of the SAFERHome standards were met, including wider doors and hallways, lowered light switches and the entire home being pre-wired for home automation using SMART technology, which gives the homeowner the ability to open the front door from the bedroom and operate blinds and windows automatically.
“All the stuff we put in as a result of the SAFERHome standards cost us less than $1,000 extra, and it is almost invisible,” says Brad. “This is our last home. I want it to be able to accommodate us in the future and, in the meantime, I want it to look as normal as possible.”
AUGUST 2012 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE