The first members of the baby boomer generation – comprised of some 77 million people according to a New York Times article – turned 65 in January, 2011. Many of these individuals are now charged with caring for their elderly parents; many witnessed the aging of their grandparents that led to difficulties with residential mobility and necessary relocation.
For these reasons, the home remodeling industry is experiencing a new trend – people updating their homes with the future in mind. Companies are manufacturing countertops, cabinets and bathroom fixtures that make aging in place a possibility.
According to Elizabeth Pope’s New York Times piece, “About 80 percent of Americans age 45 and older prefer to ‘age in place’ — that is, to remain in their current homes and communities, according to a recent AARP study. Manufacturers and contractors are responding with new products and technologies.”
The term “universal design” is becoming ubiquitous among the home remodeling and manufacturing industries. This means designing features that will be appropriate and user – friendly for people of any age.
What are some UD features and home improvements that will help residents age in place?
- Open space that can one day accommodate the maneuvering of a wheelchair or walker
- In bathrooms, elevated towel racks and lots of grab bars, both in the bathroom space itself and the shower / tub area
- Wide doorways
- Improved lighting and controls that are large and easy to use
- Stepless entries into tubs / showers; sloped transitions from room to room
- Waist-level counterops, vanities and storage drawers
Pope notes that universal design features were, until recently, “a neglected approach in the design industry.” Plus, they aren’t important considerations solely for seniors wishing to remodel. “A stepless entry is also handy for parents pushing a baby stroller…lever – style faucets that accommodate low dexterity are also useful when your hands are sticky with cookie dough.”
AARP has published a guide to remodeling your home with an eye toward universal design. The National Assocation of Home Builders has developed a 50+ Housing Council to “serve” the special needs of NAHB members involved in all aspects of 50+ housing, including design, development, finance, ownership, management, and sales and marketing.”
“Industry experts say the best time to age proof a house is during building or remodeling — before disabilities require it,” says Pope.
If you’re considering renovating your Atlanta home, speak with a contractor that can help you make design decisions with forethought. In the long run, remodeling to age in place will save time, money and energy.
Consult Glazer Design and Construction by calling 404.683.9848 or emailing Randy@GlazerConstruction.com.