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Homes for every stage of life

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

Aging in place is a popular retirement planning catchphrase. It means continuing to live in your own home even as your body gets older and you grow less able to manage the tasks associated with everyday living.

That stage of life is hard to contemplate -- let alone spend money on -- when you are still hale and hearty. But most of us will get there one day -- if we're lucky. And even if retirement is a long way off, keeping these things in mind when you contemplate purchasing a home could make it easier to resell. Think about this: The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that 1 in 5 Americans will be age 65 or older by 2050.

The American Institute of Architects reported in its annual survey that accessibility -- such as entries with no steps, first-floor bedrooms, wider hallways, etc. -- is the fastest-growing new home design trend. The group also cites low-maintenance landscaping as another feature that has become highly popular.

The National Association of Home Builders' survey of What Homebuyers Want, released in May, confirmed this, ranking these accessibility features most desirable:

  • Full bathroom on the main level, 81 percent.
  • Doorways at least 3 feet wide, 79 percent.
  • Hallways at least 4 feet wide, 78 percent.
  • Nonslip floor surfaces, 63 percent.
  • Entrance without steps, 50 percent.
  • Lower kitchen cabinets, 48 percent.
  • Bathroom aids, such as grab bars or seating in shower, 46 percent.

Andrew Scharlach, associate dean and professor at University of California Berkeley's School of Social Welfare, is particularly critical of U.S. housing policy because he says it doesn't do very much to accommodate the onslaught of aging baby boomers. In his report, Creating Aging-Friendly Communities in the United States, he calls for more federal money to be targeted toward helping older homeowners remodel, so they can stay in their homes safely. He argues that this approach is much less expensive than building more nursing home and senior care facilities.

Scharlach also calls for what he dubs "complete streets," which not only accommodate automobiles, but also walking, electric wheelchairs, golf carts and bicycles. In my little town, where there are mostly no sidewalks, that would be a huge step forward for me and many other residents.

What would you do to make your town more aging-friendly?

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August 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I am happy to hear from the young and active 69-75's. But as the article points out we may not want to admit now (and I believe as we even get into our late 70's it gets worse)we will all eventually need to consider how we get around. Unfortunatley I just live through this with both my Mom 83 & Dad 86 who we lost within 8 months of each other.

They felt the same way through their 70's. Active and aging well in place with their two story ....beds and bath only on the 2nd floor.

Then it hit all of a sudden and reality set in for us but still not for them. As far as Mom & Dad were concerned they could still do it all. They couldn't. Falling, struggling to make it up and down steps. But they still insisted they we OK.

Taught me a big lesson at 61. My wife and I need to start prepping now because we may forget, disagree or become head strong with everyone if we are lucky enough to even hit our 70's or 80's.

Take heed of the helpful hints of "Aging in Place."

August 23, 2013 at 11:30 am

I am going to be 75 in October and my husband will be 80 in December we still do all the work with our rentals and around our 3200 sq ft home except we hire the 1 acre of yd mowed, That's because we don't have the time to do it all.Our home is all on one floor 4-5 bedr.and 3 baths It is very covenient to everything no steps to fall on or down,. I have had 2 scopes on my knees and arthritis in hands and feet . Our energy level is a lot lower than it was or maybe its the wanta to do as much as use to do like vacumning and going up into the attic to put something. I have started taking a lot of different vitamins and ibuprolean, so I guess we will survive .

August 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Husband is 73, hikes, bikes, plays tennis, does political campaigning and community volunteer work. I am 69, have had arthritis since age 23 or so. Still walk as long as I want, can take stairs 2 at a time if I choose to and move furniture, carry groceries, work in yard....anything I want to do!!

We live in two bedroom condo UPSTAIRS in one city,
4 bedroom two-story home in another city. Do all our own home maintenance (both places) and yard work/landscaping. Still cook from scratch A LOT and maintain active life with almost 3 yrs. old grandson at our home at minimum 2 days per week! Both do volunteer work, community involvement, etc. Much energy comes from climbing stairs multiple times a day and thinking positive.

Denise B.
August 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Scharlach is right. 'Complete' streets would also bring the community together. Have been looking for a home similar to what's described so my husband and I can 'age' in place. This kind of home is next to impossible to find. Since I've been researching awhile, I know this kind of design is called 'universal design' and it's shocking that more homes are not built with it in mind as it doesn't cost more but would be so much more advantageous to the older population and make it possible for them to stay home. As an RN I know that many are sent to rehabs from the hospital as opposed to home because those features are not in place for them at their own homes, and everyone would prefer to be home! So we continue to look....

Dag M
August 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

I am 74, wife 71.
Lost job in 2010 and couldn't find work, lost house, cost too much to live in USA on ss, moving to mexico!

Richard B.
August 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

Am 83, male and have aged in place so far. Always do my own yard work but in preparation for later years, acquired a small riding mower, light weight easy to start edger, and electric pruning shears ---makes the yard a pleasure to do. King size bed should consist of twin beds bolted together(makes turning mattresses easier).Have a small pick up truck and a midsize sedan which makes a perfect combination. Three hours a week at the fitness center plus 2 mile walks the other 4 days , rounds out exercise. Develop a hobby (am model maker).No boring card games with people that can only talk about the past and their kids! Push On!!.

Hubert DeHainaut
August 22, 2013 at 9:32 am

I'm 74 and live in a 3 level condo. No bathroom on main floor. It is walking up and down stairs that keeps me active and in shape. It might take a little longer to get to various places in the condo as I get older but I have maintained my balance and agility.