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Homes for every stage of life

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
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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19 Comments
charles howland
August 22, 2013 at 6:15 am

I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO SEE ALL STORES AND BUSINESSES REQUIRED TO PUT THE HANDICAP PARKING SPACES NEAREST TO THE ENTRANCES AND PHARMACY
SECTIONS AT THE FRONT OF THE STORES!!!!

I WRITE MORE TICKETS FOR ABUSE OF THE HANDICAP SPACES THAN I DO FOE SPEEDING!!!! I COULD WHOLE SHIFTS FOR THOSE IDIOTS!!!!

Brenda Kohlmyer
August 22, 2013 at 4:35 am

I agree with Ursula that a refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom makes a lot of sense. You're in the freezer less than the refrigerator and when the refrigerator is on top you don't have to bend down to get fresh vegetables and meat out of low drawers near the floor. When the freezer is on the bottom it will probably have a drawer, which makes getting frozen food out a whole lot easier than digging through a top shelf stuffed with packages.

Light weight furniture is also a good idea because it is easier to move. That doesn't mean flimsy, just light weight. A well built dining room chair with sturdy arms will be easy for anyone to get out of and isn't likely to slip on the hardwood floor if you use felt chair pads which have a bit of grip. The same goes for a well built wing back chair and a foot rest rather than a Lazyboy. Nothing against Lazyboy or Barcalounger for comfort, but those chairs are very heavy and if you need to move one to clean the floor or just rearrange the furniture it gets harder to do as you get older.

m.e. winters
August 21, 2013 at 10:29 pm

I am 75 and gave up my country house 5 years ago for a small town condo. I have a groundlevel and lucky to find handicapped friendly unit in a regular complex with all young professional neighbors. I sure didn't want to live in one of those senior places. Flooring is a problem. My unit was new and had carpeting, but hard to maintain. I put in hardwood floors except bedrooms. I have knee issues and foot melanoma amputation but so far so good. I have 94 year old friend that manages well on hardwood floors. Carpeting is hard for walkers and canes. I disagree with Ursula and a low bed. Most seniors I know put risers under bed legs to raise their beds. I spent 6 weeks in Nursing home and hospital time, Never saw a low bed. I will not give up my SUV and have a hard time getting out of most friends sedans. Too low. Who is this Urula and were did she come up with this misinformation about seniors? Lightweight furniture not a good idea as it can move on carpet or floors getting in or out.. Get sturdy heavy furniture that will not move when pressure is put on armrests to get out or knees give out when you have to plunk to sit down.. And what senior with bad backs and knees wants to crawl in a freezer door floor level. Seniors don't need huge refridge and an eye level top freezer much better. Ursula you need to talk to someone who has walked the walk. You sound like a highly paid misinformed government employee handing out nonsense information. DC is full of people like you.

Marilyn Filmanski
August 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

I, too, am surprised that first floor master with a walk/roll in shower isn't on the list. The apartment complexes also have to realize if a tenant wants to upgrade the apt. at their own expense to make it more senior friendly it should be allowed. There are more seniors downsizing to apts. nearer to their offspring.

Diane Hansen
August 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

As we are now in our miud 60's I agree with many of the items on the list and in the comments.
But I would add rocker switches and a hi-rise toilet with grab
bar. Today we don't need this but next year who knows? Our walk-in shower is also great with it's built-in seat.
And having a dog makes you go walking which is great at any age.

EVERETT JOHNSON
August 21, 2013 at 7:54 pm

BEST ADVISE - HOME WITH BEDROOMS & M. BATH ON FIRST LEVEL - 2 CAR GARAGE - NO SLOPED DRIVEWAY - SMALL YARD, FRONT & BACK - NICELY LANDSCAPED. SPLIT SEPERATED BEDROOMS FOR BOTH HUSBAND AND WIFE (LOWER LEVEL), NO SECOND LEVEL OR BASEMENT AT ALL, PLENTY OF STORAGE IN GARAGE, CLOSETS, OUTSIDE SHED, ETC. COVERED PATIO OR DECK IN BACK, SMALL GARDEN SPACE CLOSE TO PATIO OR DECK, SMALLER SQ. FOOTAGE AND ENERGY EFFICIENT COOLING & HEATING.

Roberta Sumner
August 21, 2013 at 7:46 pm

I am 87 years young, a widow, and have been by myself for 9 years. Believe me , I have learned a lot in that time. I have a gardener now, and a lady who cleans for me once a month and go out to small places to eat dinner with friends.Legs are bad, and I do have stairs in front of the house and in my garage. I take this as an exercise time for me and it helps to limber those legs. The attitude of retirement is essential, and I thought about moving to an apartment, but I feel more secure in my neighborhood and people here check on me , and help so much. I love them all.

JIM PATTERSON
August 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I am surprised that a main level master bed room isn't on the list. It was my number one concern. Have electrical outlets about three feet off the floor. Shower doors wide enough for a wheel chair with a curb-less entry. Get a rescue dog to keep you company.

Renee Hunter
August 21, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I retired 2 years ago and will be 59 years old next month, and I would suggest to anyone who's planning retirement to have an outlet, whether it be the YMCA,or just walking and getting fresh air. Being with some of my retired friends by looking at the football games. playing cards, and some dancing is my oyster now. Now I'm planning on getting a dog to run and walk with me by the lake front . I'm going to the animal welfare and find a cute dog AND maybe a cat. I've found a spiritual home (a church) to be my launching pad when that time comes . But for now just simply enjoying life and freedom is my oyster.

Ursula Cesario
August 21, 2013 at 4:48 pm

1. I would recommend buying a European Platform bed which is lower and therefore easier to get in and out. For a king size bed, I recommend buying 2 twin size mattresses (easier to handle) instead of 1 king size mattress.
2. Buy a Sedan car in a smaller size. Smaller cars are easier to navigate and the Sedan is easier to get in and out of.
3. Buy lightweight furniture and smaller is better.
4. Ditch the heavy stoneware plates in your kitchen and buy inexpensive china dishes or Corel dinnerware. (Paper plates maybe on occasion or for entertaining).
5. Install pull out drawers in the kitchen (easier to reach).
6. Buy a refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom.
7. Recommend to anybody at any age to do whatever yoga or stretching you can do - it works wonders.