The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies recently released a report on how the real estate market is responding to increasing numbers of seniors, ages +65 years. By 2035, it is anticipated that one in three households will be headed up by a person 65 years and older…today, it’s one in five households. That’s a 20% to 33% increase in just 20 years!
Both senior homeowners and renters require building and renovation remediation to meet the needs of this aging demographic. For example, only 1% of all houses in the country are currently equipped with no-step entrances, single floor living, wide hallways and doorways to accommodate wheelchairs. By 2035, more than 31 million homes will be occupied by a person with some sort of disability…a 76% increase from today’s numbers. There will be more senior single heads of households and there will be more senior renters. Plus, many will live and age in low-density locations that lack transportation, medical and other neighborhood services.
So, what to do? Heather Brin, principal architect for Aging in Place Architecture in Port Jefferson, NY, says that construction planning and renovations for seniors are about “…enabling seniors to maintain their independence.” Since 85% of seniors want to stay in their homes to age-in-place, according to AARP, houses must be adapted to senior needs. Replace door knobs with door levers, install grab bars in bathrooms, lower kitchen and bathroom counter tops to 34” high rather than the standard 36” height, create a walk-in shower, create a wide ledge around the bathtub, put in extra lights, create color contrasts (light cabinets with a dark back splash) and consider pull out, sliding shelves in the cabinets.
What’s currently being done? New constructions projects in places like Pima County, Arizona are offering multi-generational homes in which the older family member(s) live on the first floor and the younger family members live on the second/third floors. Some existing communities are developing peer networks built upon the Beacon Hill Village model whereby senior neighbors pool their yearly membership fees (ranging from discounted prices of $125./single to $975./couple) to access group rates on rides, groceries, computer/TV help, cleaning services, etc. Additionally, senior peer networks combat isolation. Such models are currently expanding to 40 states.