There was an AARP study done in 2003 that basically said more than four in five Americans over the age of 55 plan to remain in their homes for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this group is not preparing for this situation. There are some interesting trends creating widespread changes in the building industry. A report by the Mature Life Institute that summarizes a survey of homeowners in the 55+ age group and what they are looking for in purchasing a home. What it showed was that this group mentioned they wanted high speed internet access and energy efficient appliances. While these are great things (and necessary), there are other considerations that homeowners planning to age in place should consider for safety and comfort as they age in their homes.
There is a checklist by The National Association of Home Builders of proven safety adaptations to help older adults live better and longer that includes such things as installing bathroom modifications like grab bars, raised toilets, installing non-slip flooring, and installing railings on both sides of the stairs. Things like having increased wattage of light bulbs, low thresholds, wider doorways, lower upper cabinets with accessible shelving and using lever door handles are also suggested.
What these two contrasting pieces of information show is that home buyers in the baby boomer age group and older are not really preparing for the future and remaining in their homes as they age. This may be due to a lack of knowledge about what to expect as aging occurs. It is time to start planning ahead so that aging in place or universal design is a norm, not a special situation. It is time that home buyers, builders and designers become pro-active and plan for the future. If you are remodeling or building, find a designer who can help you plan ahead and incorporate small but necessary elements so you are not stuck in a home that is potentially dangerous or requires expensive changes later. It is usually easier and more cost effective incorporating accessibility design from the beginning rather than retrofitting. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. Thanks for reading and take care.