Planning to Age in Place?

You raised kids and entertained grand kids in your home – it is easy to understand why you want to remain there as long as possible. Though we know nature can be cruel and physical disabilities are not uncommon in later life. Is your home well-suited for you to age in place?

The three most important accessibility features that allow people to move safely around their homes include:
1. Entrances without steps
2. Single-floor living
3. Wide hallways and doorways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers

“Less than 4 percent of the U.S. housing stock has all three of those,” said Jennifer Molinsky, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University,

According to the center, elderly people have the highest rate of homeownership in the U.S.By 2035, more than one in five people in the country will be aged 65 and older and one in three households will be headed by someone in that age group.  As a result of this growth, the demand for affordable, accessible housing will greatly exceed what current supply can meet.

Without some modifications, remaining in your home will prove difficult. By far the biggest challenge is getting older people to admit they need to make changes. Often their children see the writing on the wall, but to convince parents is another story. I frequently hear  “I don’t need that, I’ll be OK” from my own parents.

Yet, those over age 55 account for more than half of all home improvement spending according to the Harvard Study. A good way to incorporate accessibility into a home is to include universal design elements as part of every renovation. These modifications are good for everyone, especially children, and in this way an uncomfortable decision does not need to be made in a hasty and costly manner once disability is upon us. The additional cost to include these types of modifications while working on a new kitchen or bath project that already involves moving walls is minimal.

Knowing the statistics about the aging of America, accessibility should be built into every new home to plan for the future. Universal design elements do not need to look sterile; with a builder and a decorator trained in the incorporation of accessibility features, new homes can be beautiful as well as appropriate to age in place.


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