In the coming decades, increasing life expectancy, a declining birth rate, and the aging of the baby boom generation will dramatically increase the number and proportion of the U.S. population over the age of 65.
Most seniors indicate that they would prefer to age in place – either staying in their current home or choosing from a range of affordable, age-appropriate housing options within their community. To make these options viable, builders will increasingly have to build and adapt homes and communities to meet the changing needs of aging residents.
With this growing cohort dominating the country’s wealth, designing homes for the over-50 buyer will become more important than ever and could drive housing trends for the years to come. And, in addition to the demands of the marketplace, a combination of public policies, and public and private strategic initiatives, is seeking to meet the health and housing needs of the rising senior population with explicit support for the aging in place concept.
For example, the U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program provides capital advances to finance the construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition of structures that will serve as supportive housing for very low-income elderly persons, including the frail elderly, and provides rent subsidies for the projects to help make them affordable.Similarly, Section 231 of the National Housing Act allows HUD to insure mortgage loans for construction or rehabilitation of rental housing for elderly and disabled renters.
To promote the adoption of accessible design principles in the private market, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) created a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist program that trains and certifies housing professionals in aging-friendly design, and the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California offers an Executive Certificate in Home Modification.
Already, builders are beginning to construct homes that incorporate features for aging adults, including:
• A side-door entrance with no steps to offer an accessible entrance without a ramp or lift in front.
• Sinks and vanity cabinets that are positioned at 36- and 32-inch heights, with sink cabinet doors and thresholds which can be removed to provide wheelchair access.
• A toilet that is set in a larger space for wheelchair access.
• A barrier-free shower with grab bars and a seat for better safety.
• A first-floor bedroom which provides the option for one-level living and can also act as a home office or other space if not needed as a bedroom.
• Hard-surface flooring to provide easier mobility for anyone using a wheelchair or assistive device.
• A peninsula counter-top in the kitchen that is set 30 inches high to offer both a sitting area for light meals as well as a lowered work surface where a cook or helper can sit instead of stand.
• Storage for everyday items at reachable heights with several easy-access drawers with cabinet pulls, which are easier to grip than smaller cabinet knobs.
• A roomy garage to provide enough space for easily getting into and out of a vehicle.
• Staircases that have handrails, ideally one on each side.
• Motion sensors that provide hands-free lighting.
• For those who can afford it, an elevator built into first- and second-floor closets.
Whether these modifications are accomplished through retrofitting older homes or designing accessible new homes, aging-friendly modifications can adapt to people’s changing needs, allowing them to age in their homes more successfully. And smart builders will make building homes for aging in place, a priority.
President, Husband, Father, Grandfather Graduate of UC Davis- Bio Sci Major- Go Aggies! Jeff has extensive experience in all of Pacific Mobility’s products and services, and specializes in accessibility products as well as stairlifts, ceiling lifts and custom wheel chairs. His hobbies include spending time with family, gardening, mountain biking, exercising and off road motorcycle riding.
24 years as Owner/President of Pacific Mobility Center – selling, installing, and servicing stairlifts, porch lifts, ceiling lifts, pool lifts, handicap ramping, specialty wheelchairs, scooters, power wheel chairs, and other power mobility devices
Certified Environmental Access Consultant since 2008
Licensed General Contractor since 1998
Certified Aging in Place Specialist since 2016
Board Member for Home Access Professionals
Member of Association of Members of the Accessibility Equipment Industry (AEMA)