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Homes Being Built For Boomers To Age Comfortably

Written by Michele Dawson on Monday, 17 November 2003 6:00 pm

Many homebuilders are designing new homes and remodeling existing ones to allow homeowners -- specifically Baby Boomers -- to age comfortably in place, the National Association of Home Builders says.

The 2003 NAHB Builder Survey, sponsored by NAHB and Countrywide Home Loans, reveals a significant number of builders are including aging-in-place features in homes. Many homes -- especially those in active adult communities and senior apartments -- are designed with the following features:

  • A bedroom and a bathroom on the first floor. More than half put the master bedroom on the first floor and more than 80 percent put a full bathroom on the first floor.

  • Easy-to-use controls and handles, including lever door handles, raised electrical outlets, electrical switches positioned lower than normal and thermostats with large numbers that are easier to read than the standard variety.

  • Extra space to move around. About 60 percent of the builders surveyed made doors and hallways wider.

  • At least one entrance that is free from steps.

  • Larger bathrooms with safety features. More than 60 percent are making bathrooms bigger and are including grab bars to prevent falls. Extra space allows those with walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs to maneuver more easily.

  • Improved lighting. Builders are including multiple controls to limit the number of trips needed to turn lights on and off, as well as dimmers to help prevent glare.

    "The vast majority of people prefer to stay in their existing homes and neighborhoods as they age, but there are a number who want to move into a new home or community," said Kent Conine, president of the National Association of Home Builders and a home and apartment builder from Dallas.

    "Whatever lifestyle choices they make, all Americans -- regardless of their age -- deserve a home that is comfortable and allows them to maintain their independence and dignity."

    AARP Executive Director and CEO William D. Novelli addressed the issue of aging in place and universal design -- the term given to designing a home to accommodate people of all ages -- at the 2002 Seniors Housing Symposium.

    "And of course, modifying homes to make them more livable -- and less likely to be obstacle courses or accidents waiting to happen -- will continue to be important," he said. "Everyone here today, I am sure, is knowledgeable about our housing stock. You know, certainly, that most homes in America -- from the plushest to the simplest -- were not designed to be age friendly or, as we like to say 50+ friendly. I don't even offer that as criticism, it's just a fact."

    Meanwhile, findings from Del Webb's 2003 Baby Boomer Report reveal that 59 percent of those surveyed expect to relocate in retirement. This number is much higher than in previous years. It reinforces the continuation of the current housing boom, says Del Webb, which has sold close to 80,000 homes in active adult communities since 1960.

    Active adults consider a variety of factors when looking for a new home for retirement, including low maintenance, aesthetics, community security, healthcare availability and recreational amenities, according to the survey.

    A survey of home builders and developers, released at NAHB's Seniors Housing Symposium earlier this year, reveals that 75 percent of buyers 50 and older are searching for a home that provides yard or grounds service and exterior home maintenance. And most are likely to choose a location that is close to their current home.

    And Boomers not only want universal design to accommodate them as they age, but they want all the extras, too -- even bigger, more luxurious houses.

    Indeed, one-fourth of home buyers aged 50 and older are paying more for the home of their golden years than for their previous house, and their new home likely features much more than aging-in-place considerations, but also next-generation amenities like structured wiring and exterior maintenance services.

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