The End of the Peter Pan Home
Get this. A Dallas article that advised homeowners to Senior-proof their house so you don't have to move later says universal design is now Hot. The article cited an AARP study that 90% of those over 50 want to stay put in their homes, but noted that most homes in this country are 'Peter Pan' homes, designed for people who will never grow old -- with overly narrow doorways, dangerous carpets and doorsills, terrorizing bathrooms, and inaccessible upper floors.
How times have changed. With a groundswell of baby boomers heading towards seniordom, adding universal design features now adds to the value of the home. So for those who like to plan ahead, like the Dallas couple in the article, incorporating universal design elements in a remodel makes sense to do sooner rather than later.
Universal design used to have a limited audience -- but not any more. "Stepless entries, home elevators, wide passageways, adjustable cabinets, curbless showers, and other UD features represent now the fastest-growing segment of the residential remodeling industry," say John Hockenberry at the MIT Media Lab. So no surprise that "there was a 74 percent increase over the last year in inquiries from prospective clients interested in making their homes more accessible." The Dallas article quoted Therese Crahan, executive director of the National Association of Home Builders' remodelers group, which has now trained more than 3000 contractors as 'Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS).
We want homes that use universal design principles. The principles of universal design are excellent (flexible, intuitive, accessible, error-tolerant, etc). And so CAPS-trained designers make an obstacle course house into a universal design home in which to live comfortably now and age successfully later. That's good, it's a glimmer of goodness for contractors in an otherwise very bleak time. And how nice that these changes are value-boosting.