With baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 getting older, the US Census Bureau predicts that the number of those over 65 will be higher than that of those under 18 by as early as 2034. To meet the needs of this rapidly growing population, AARP encourages members to carefully consider how to move their homes to places where they can age comfortably and safely.
These type of upgrades can start with simple things like installing work lights in kitchens to allow for fading eyesight and multi-height countertops to allow people of all abilities to both stand and sit in the kitchen while working, and put in non-slip tiles and grab bars Bathrooms can invest and move selected electrical outlets 18 to 24 inches tall from the typical 12 inches above the floor to make them more accessible. Major changes may include enlarged doors to allow wheelchair access or a walker and the addition of ramps to avoid stairs.
Dr. Rodney Harrell, the vice president of family, home, and community at AARP says deliberate planning to create the ideal age space can begin anytime.
"If we don't plan ahead, we have to act quickly," said Dr. Harrell, who added that the best homes incorporate universal design elements that can accommodate life for aging but also unexpected illness, injury or disability. "The vast majority of people want to stay in their homes as they age, and most homes in this country are not designed to allow that."
There are a growing number of resources that can help with this planning process.
AARP recently launched HomeFit, a free augmented reality app for iOS that scans a room and suggests improvements to turn a house into a "lifelong home" free of security and mobility risks. It is an extension of the organization's extensive HomeFit manual that is available online.
There are also certified aging specialists, a wide range of professionals including transformers, designers, architects, and occupational therapists who can recommend changes to help people live independently in their homes. This designation was developed in 2002 by the National Association of Home Builders in collaboration with AARP and other experts. Specialists can be searched by state on nahb.org, which offers a three-day certification program.
Even the smallest security updates can potentially save lives.
Ted Porter, co-chair of the Design for Aging Committee of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, says the process of making an apartment or house age-friendly can be relatively simple, inexpensive, and gradual over time.