In 2011, the first of the baby boom generation reached what used to be known as retirement age. And for the next 18 years, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day, according to AARP. As this unique group grows older, it will likely transform the institutions of aging — just as it has done to other aspects of American life. Will boomers redefine this life stage? Most experts believe so. The boomer generation is more active, youthful and less likely to “embrace” aging as previous generations have. They want to remain independent as long as possible maintaining their lifestyle and home.
Despite the youthful mindset of boomers, most aging Americans will face inevitable changes in their lifetime. There are currently 9.8 million senior homeowners with some type of disability or impairment that can make it difficult to live at home according to the National Council on Aging. Group homes, assisted living facilities, retirement homes and extended care facilities are usually less desirable or not affordable options for these folks. For most, staying in their home is preferable to a group home. So to enable this to happen they realize that their home will require design modifications, renovating or remodeling to create an environment that is more healthy, secure, and supportive of them as they experience age related challenges.
The housing industry recognizes the attitudes of the baby boomers and is addressing the needs of seniors who want to remain living independently as long as possible. This design concept is known as “Aging in Place”. The number of people facing age related decisions in the next few years is a strong indicator for those in the building, interior design, and architecture professions to incorporate aging in place principles in their designs. Aging in Place addresses the basic design elements in a space to ensure a safe and secure environment. Elements such as better lighting, non-slip floors, easy to reach cabinets and drawers can make a huge difference in how a room functions.
Designing a home with Aging in Place principles is complex. Here are just a handful of basic design elements that can make a difference in your home: Non-skid floors, taller toilet seats, balance bars, lever style door handles, level threshold door entry, easy roll out drawers, lower kitchen cabinets, larger doorways and halls, lowered light switches and raised outlets.
Whether planning ahead for yourself, taking care of an aging parent or disabled loved one, design changes you make in your home now based on Aging in Place principles will make life more comfortable for everyone in your home. Consult a designer familiar with these principles for more helpful advice.
Cynthia Champness Cuellar, IDS is the owner and principle designer of Rancho Interior Design. Call for appointment 951-767-2147 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org