Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Making homes livable for years to come
By Mac McKinney, President
The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2025, 62 million Americans will potentially require new homes, renovations to their existing homes, or age and ability-appropriate assistive devices.
These needs, coupled with advances in home-based medical technologies, are creating a huge demand for housing options that are accessible to occupants of all ages and levels of mobility.
According to Charlotte Wade, program manager of the National Center for Seniors Housing Research at the NAHB Research Center, "Year after year, national survey results reveal that the majority of older adults wish to age in place, instead of moving from their homes as they age. To facilitate aging in place, the National Center for Seniors Housing Research offers the most current information on older adults housing options and technologies."
These resources include the Directory of Accessible Building Products and the LifeWise Home. The Directory, now in its 14th year of publication, provides information to consumers on the products that can be used to incorporate universal design into their homes, making them more livable for all ages and ability levels.
Recognizing that sometimes it helps to see new ideas and products firsthand, the NCSHR, in partnership with the U.S. Administration on Aging and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, constructed the LifeWise Home in NAHBs National Research Home Park in Bowie, Md.
The home is built with innovative designs and technologies that facilitate aging in place. It serves as a real-life laboratory for consumers, builders, product manufacturers, policy makers, aging industry professionals, and others as they learn to incorporate design features that can offer a supportive environment while remaining relatively inconspicuous. The LifeWise Home demonstrates that aging in place features are not synonymous with institutional design, but can be integrated in a way that is appealing to first time homebuyers and empty nesters alike.
Since its grand opening in January 2001, over 1,000 visitors have toured through the 1,900 sq. ft. LifeWise home. Among the features and designs that facilitate aging in place are main living areas on the first floor, an accessible shower with grab bars, a washing toilet, wider doorways and hallways, a raised dishwasher, a front-loading clothes washer and dryer, a home automation system and an upstairs suite for a live-in caretaker or boomerang child.
Following are some ideas that consumers can incorporate into new homes to make them more livable for all occupants:
Dishwashers can be raised six to eight inches above the standard installation height to provide access from a wheelchair or without bending to load.
Levered faucets and easy-to-operate drain controls can be used to allow easy, unobstructed reach. Faucets can be located on the side of the sink, or toward the entrance side of the bathtub or shower.
A full-length, wall-mounted mirror and a tilted mirror behind the sink are useful for people who are short in stature or who use wheelchairs.
An intercom, telephone, or emergency call system can be installed in the bathroom for emergency use.
For more information on aging in place concepts, visit the National Center for Seniors Housing Research online at www.nahbrc.org/seniors or contact the Home Builders Association of Midwest Georgia office at 770-716-7109.
(Mac McKinney, who is owner and president of McKinney Builders Inc., is president of the Home Builders Association of Midwest Georgia, which serves a membership of approximately 550 builders and associate members in Fayette, Coweta, Spalding, Meriwether, Heard, Pike, Upson, Lamar, Butts and Jasper counties.)
Copyright 2004-Fayette Publishing, Inc.