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Stay Put in Your House Regardless of Age or Mobility of You or Your Frail Parents

Posted Sep 12 2008 1:42pm

According to a 2000 AARP study, 71% of baby boomers over age 45 declared they want to stay put, not move to Florida or Costa Rica. So, how is the building industry responding to this huge projected need to provide housing that people can comfortably stay in as they age?

In How Stuff Works, Molly Edmonds discusses "How is an aging baby boomer generation changing the design of homes?"

"Universal design" is meant to incorporate all of the features of a handicapped accessible house, but not look like old-timers are living there. It just looks more spacious and is more comfortable for people of all ages. Universal design involves the following principles:

  • Equitable use: all people use it in the same way
  • It's simple and intuitive
  • It's easy to determine information associated with any special feature
  • Tolerance for error, which minimizes danger
  • Low physical effort to use any feature
  • Flexibility for right or left handed people
  • Size and space for approach and use allows anyone to have room whether seated or standing

And what do these houses look like?

  • They have a stepless entry and easy-open door lever for the person with their hands full, or carrying something heavy, or for a wheelchair
  • All necessary functions are on the ground floor, including a master bedroom, but upstairs there could be guest bedrooms and a study
  • Stairway is wide to accommodate an elevator for aging parents or someone who has an injury
  • Cabinets and countertops are lower and toilets are higher
  • Walk-in showers - no need to step over a 2' high tub

If built from the ground up, rather than remodel an existing home, these designs might add only 5% cost. Since 20% of Americans will be 65+ by 2030, it makes sense from a seller's perspective to incorporate these features. How about it?

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