Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies published a report this month titled “Housing America’s older adults – meeting the needs of an aging population”. It is interesting from several viewpoints; one, confirming that in the next 15 years, 1 in 5 Americans will be age 65 or older, and second, “What does this matter to me?”
The majority of existing homes do not meet accessibility requirements, in one way or another. Someone you know, or perhaps yourself, is nearing retirement age. Will you always be able to run up those stairs? Does that slippery shower floor make you just a little nervous? Making home modifications now, while still earning an income, means that if you do desire these features in the future, they will already be paid for. If you don’t ever need them, they enhance the resale value of the home, according to the article.
If you plan on staying in your home, when planning for repairs and remodeling projects, include aging-in-place design or what is called Universal Design. These strategies propose adding elements that make it easier and safer for anyone who is mobility or sight impaired to live better in their own home.
Some of these features are:
- Wider hallways and doors
- No-step entries
- Single floor dwellings
- Accessible electrical controls (switches, outlets, etc.)
- Lever-style handles on doors and faucets
- Grab bars in bathrooms
- Walk-in showers
- Hand rails on both sides of steps
If you already own a home it may not be possible to alter it for some of these options, and you might not want to. The idea is to start to incorporate some of the accessibility features each time you modify a portion of your home. For instance, consider the type of knobs on doors, and how much easier it is to operate a door with a lever handle instead of a round knob. Some of the changes are not expensive modifications, but can make a big difference when needed.