Home Styles and Features Appropriate for Aging in Place

Home Styles and Features Appropriate for Aging in Place

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By Elaine VonCannon, ABR, SRES, Associate Broker, Notary, Team Leader, Property Manager, Award Winning Agent

What is aging in place? Why is this phrase used so commonly now? The huge boost in the aging population, created by the baby boomers, is spurring a completely different discussion about aging and dying, then has been seen in generations. With a majority (75%) rejecting health care settings and even retirement communities -Boomers are indicating a majority preference for staying in the home and in their communities as they age. In the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries, single-family homes were kept in the family, and elders aged at home. The difference is now, we live in a mobile society, and children are often out-of-state pursing careers and taking care of families.

So, when a senior experiences the death of a partner, he or she will often opt to age in place. Aging in place means staying in the suburbs, or the rural or urban community where a senior has lived for decades. Yet making the choice to stay in the family home means renovations may be needed in order to keep living at home. Or, perhaps the family home needs to be sold and a newer, more appropriate property will be purchased as the perfect residence to age in place.

Homes designed so seniors can age in place are not just the wave of the future. They are here and now. As concepts about aging change, and life expectancy is lengthened by as much as 15-20 years, Boomers are finding they have to rethink their retirement. Building concepts and renovations of existing homes will continue to change and adapt to the growing senior population's needs.

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (HJCHS) has been looking closely at this shift in the housing needs for the Baby Boomer generation, also dubbed the ‘silver tsunami.' Jen Molinsk, a Housing Perspective Associate from the HJCHS, says, "Abilities may change over time. The definition hints at the dynamic nature of aging in place, rather than the absence of action and change regarding one's living environment." Needs often precipitates change. Anticipating problems with walking and walking up stairs while aging makes it necessary to live on the first floor or have elevator access to a residence.

Desirable Home and Community Features for Aging in Place

  • Easy no-step entrance to a unit
  • First floor living (or elevator access)
  • Wider doorways and turnaround areas for wheelchair access
  • Bathrooms with easy access to tub and shower and grab bars
  • A range of housing types in close proximity to daily needs and public transportation

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has also studied aging in place communities. NAR research shows that transportation is a major issue, because seniors who no longer drive still need to get to the grocery store, the doctor and eat out. "By 2015, 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent," says the report, "Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options."

Communities Adapt to Residents Needs to Age in Place

Places like Arlington, Virginia and Cobb County, Georgia are actively correcting this lack of public transportation and successfully retaining a senior community. "We wanted to make the whole community senior friendly, rather than make them move to a separate development that is senior friendly," said Dana Johnson, of Cobb County. In Arlington, a solid infrastructure is in place, including wider sidewalks with sloping corners and more public transportation options just for seniors.

The types of housing I recommend to seniors include condominiums with elevators (or first floor) and townhomes. Also, if an aging person were presently located in a rural area, would his or her lifestyle benefit from a move closer in to doctors, family, friends and grocery store? Is the home they are living in too big to manage? Are there too many floors and too much yard space for upkeep? If so, selecting another home, more suitable for aging in place, will be the most likely option to take.

The Williamsburg, Virginia area has always been a retirement destination. Williamsburg, VA continues to be a retirement mecca because of a mild winter and a four seasons climate, and its convenient location in the Mid-Atlantic region. As Williamsburg seniors decide to age in place, and more retirees relocate into the area, builders are responding. They are constructing more first floor ranchers, cottages and single-family homes with a master bedroom on the first floor. Sometimes retirees will request a master on the first floor and one on the second floor, so there is room for a caregiver to live with them.

With the 65+ population set to double by 2030, and a large percentage of seniors stating they want to age in place, demand for appropriate housing will continue to grow. Learn more about housing that is perfect for aging in place in Williamsburg, Virginia, visit: http://www.voncannonrealestate.com.