Apr. 15, 2009
One of my friends just added a gorgeous, walk-in shower to a first-floor bathroom that sits nicely behind a kitchen pantry and is accessible to the kitchen, den, and home office. The huge rectangular glass-door enclosure features a sliding shower head that can rise more than eight feet above the stone floor.
"Are you expecting grandkids that will be 6-foot-7?" I inquired.
"That and the people who rented it last summer said it would be great if we had a shower downstairs," replied my friend, a university professor. "We plan to rent it out more as we travel and teach, so thought it would be a great investment."
Finding a functional home is a dream we all share — whether we own or rent. Many older Americans are now finding their needs are changing, especially those sunbirds who seek places in warmer climates like Texas every year.
Nearly a quarter of Americans aged 45 or older say they, or someone they live with, will have trouble maneuvering around their home in the coming years. In addition, fewer than 10% of the nation's 100 million housing units have features to make them universally accessible.
Landlords may find that allocating money for modification projects gets lost among many other pressing items, especially in an economic downturn. While adding a wonderful new shower is nice, "home mods" typically entail smaller projects.
Home modifications refer to adaptations to homes that can make it easier for someone to carry out daily activities, such as preparing meals, climbing stairs, bathing, as well as changes to the physical structure of a home to improve its overall safety and condition. These project designs have come a long way and are custom, attractive amenities that no longer sing out "an old person lives here." They can also enhance the resale value of the home once the present owner sells. These improvements and alternations can serve all ages, hence the name universal design (UD).
"Seniors and boomers are so active now that some of the activities are clearly putting stress on their bodies,'' says Susan Mack, a California-based occupational therapist. "I've got people who are getting hip and knee replacements in their 60s and people in their 40s getting their knees scoped. This did not happen with previous generations because they didn't live as long nor put this stress on their bones so soon.
"If you've got a sports injury," Mack figures, "do you want to rent or come home to a house that is fraught with hazards and barriers? These are not just designs and ideas for the frail elderly. We are also providing solutions for people who never thought they were going to get old — at least not this quickly.''
A recent AARP study compared persons living in a UD house with others in traditional settings. The study found significant cost differences for health care — those in UD settings paid less than half the amount paid by those living in regular designs. The study pointed to savings by "undergoing less physical decline." For example, by providing at least one no-step entry to homes, the likelihood of falls and injuries is reduced as well as allowing for safer exits during a fire or
More importantly, U.S. builders and remodelers have anticipated the huge need — and financial rewards resulting from it — and jumped on board. The National Association of Home Builders, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing more than 205,000 members involved in homebuilding, remodeling, property management, and other services, now offers a certified aging in place (CAPS) designation.
Maybe I should speak with one these specialists before I get my knee scoped.