A new way of aging in place is sweeping the nation as Baby Boomers begin to retire. Former generations waited eagerly for retirement with plans to relocate to places like Arizona and Florida, but things are changing. Baby Boomers want to stay put and they’re taking it to a whole new level. Baby Boomers are the first to invest in creating their homes with a “universal design” from construction. These homes feature wide doorways, walk-in showers, and kitchens adapted for wheel chair access. Incorporating universal design from construction only increases costs by about 5% whereas making accommodations after construction can be much more costly.
Universal design is based on several concepts:
- Equitable use: All people use the design features in the same way.
- Flexibility in use: The feature can be adjusted depending on the user; for example, both right- and left-handed people could use it.
- Simple and intuitive: Any user could understand the feature, regardless of knowledge level or language.
- Perceptive information: It’s easy to determine information associated with the feature.
- Tolerance for error: The design minimizes danger and potential consequences of misuse.
- Low physical effort: You won’t break a sweat.
- Size and space for approach and use: Whether seated or standing, you have the room to get around and the ability to reach for things.
Universal design and accessibility are not the same…
Universal design is all about building a home that anyone can use. But isn’t that also the goal of accessibility? Not quite. Accessibility guidelines are written for people with disabilities, but universal design is meant for people of all abilities. Some of the features are the same in accessible and universally designed homes. But universal design doesn’t use different materials that might set the accessibility apart. A good way to think about it is in terms of how you enter the home. In an accessible home, you’ll see a ramp, but in a universal design home, you just walk in the stairless entryway.
Baby Boomers are among the most diverse our nation has ever seen. Personalities ranging from yoga loving environmentalists to board room bull dogs make it difficult for retirement communities to attract seniors on a broad level. Senior communities are slowly beginning to react to the upcoming boomers and their preference to live in community with those sharing similar interests and ideas, making aging in place even more appealing.
If you want to know more about Baby Boomers and the trend toward universal design and aging in place click here.