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Age affects housing choices

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Tom Kelly Correspondent

As we carried the last boxes — silver- ware, dishes, favorite kitchen seasonings — up the stairs to my mom’s newly rented condominium, my brother stared me down with a sweat-stained grin.

“Am I nuts, or will we be doing this again in a couple of years?” Bill asked. “Mom’s not going to be carrying groceries up these stairs forever.”

That was four short years ago. The steps were few — a half dozen reaching from the basement garage to her first-floor unit — but far too many for a woman, now 85, to take on more than once a day.

Late last year, the siblings moved Mom into another condominium across the street — complete with a large, spacious elevator. The unit was even a bit larger than the previous one so that the kids — and grandkids — could continue to visit. The second bedroom also afforded the possibility of live-in care down the road.

And, remarkably for the first time, we all were more aware of bathtubs with grab-bars, wider hallways and the height of the counter tops.

According to AARP, the organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, nearly a quarter of Americans aged 45 or older say they or someone they live with will have trouble maneuvering around their home in the coming years. A survey by the group — the United States’ largest organization for those 50 and older — showed that fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s approximately 100 million housing units have features to make them universally accessible.

The good news is that the nation’s homebuilders now recognize the need and the number of consumers that will soon require grab-bars and prefer one-story homes.

At the recent National Association of Home Builders’ Senior Housing Symposium, the country’s first certified aging-in-place specialists completed training for a new professional designation. The program, known as “CAPS,” is a three-day seminar that provides information about aging-in-place home modifications, including background on the older adult population, common aging-in-place remodeling projects, marketing to the aging-in-place market, codes and standards, common barriers and solutions, product ideas resources and communication techniques.

Projects for the aging-in-place remodeling segment range from installation of bath and shower grab bars and adjustment of countertop heights to the creation of multifunctional first-floor master suites and the installation of private elevators. CAPS training participants learn the mechanics and nuances of effective assessment of clients’ needs and integrating myriad considerations into unified, aesthetically pleasing, functional solutions.

The CAPS program was created by the NAHB remodelors’ council in collaboration with the organization’s seniors housing council, research center and the AARP.

NAHB is based in Washington, D.C., and represents more than 205,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, multifamily construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other aspects of residential construction.

About 80 percent of all Americans 55 years or older currently own their own homes, making it the highest rate of homeownership of any age group in the country. Members of this population group also tend to be healthier and wealthier than previous generations of similar age, and expect their homes to reflect their active, independent and upscale lifestyles, NAR reported.

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