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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Universal design hitting home as care costs rise

By Tom Kelly

Builders are doing an admirable job of incorporating universal design features in new homes, but baby boomers continue to be slow in accepting the need for them.

Perhaps you know the type – people who do not want to accept the fact that they will eventually get old.

“I think universal design features can be likened to the first cell phones,” said John Migliaccio, director of research at MetLife’s Mature Market Institute. “At first, very few people used them. Now they are ubiquitous. In fact, every kid has one. Consumers haven’t really gotten the message on universal design, but we feel they will.”

The slow acceptance is not unlike the responses to environmentally friendly homes. For example, only 12 percent of respondents to a Metlife survey said they would pay more for a “green” home. The same folks are willing to pay an average one-time amount of $6,732 if it would save $1,000 annually in utility costs. While 23 percent of respondents said they are concerned about the environment, it does not drive their decision to buy.

The educational push by builders, architects and designers is to remove the “old” association from universal design, or UD. The universal design approach advocates that all built environments be accessible to people regardless of age, size or physical ability, and the features of these environments be compelling and appear seamless to the design of the home. These amenities and alternations can serve all ages, hence the name “universal design.”

Builders are striving to create universal design applications that make it easier for someone to carry out daily activities such as preparing meals, climbing stairs and bathing, as well to change the physical structure of a home to improve its overall safety and condition. These attractive amenities no longer sing out “an old person lives here” and they can also enhance the resale value of the home.

The tools needed for homeowners to stay in their homes longer – or “age in place” – were brought to the forefront of the building community as a result of a cost survey of nursing homes, assisted living communities, home care agencies, and adult day services in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that included national figures and data from 87 individual markets across the country. For nursing homes, private-pay rates for long-term (custodial) nursing care were obtained for both private and semiprivate rooms throughout the U.S.

The Met Life study, produced by LifePlans Inc., was conducted by telephone between July and October 2009. Here are the key elements of the survey:

•National average rates for a private room in a nursing home increased by 3.3 percent, from $212 daily ($77,380 annually) in 2008 to $219 daily ($79,935 annually) in 2009. National average rates for a semiprivate room in a nursing home increased by 3.7 percent from $191 daily ($69,715 a year) in 2008 to $198 daily ($72,270 annually) in 2009.

•National average assisted living base rates increased 3.3 percent, from $3,031 monthly ($36,372 annually) in 2008 to $3,131 monthly ($37,572 annually) in 2009.

•The 2009 national average hourly rate for home health aides increased by 5 percent, from $20 in 2008 to $21 in 2009. The national average hourly rate for homemaker/companions increased by 5.6 percent, from $18 in 2008 to $19 in 2009.

•Adult day services national average daily rates increased by 4.7 percent, from $64 in 2008 to $67 in 2009.

At assisted living communities, costs were obtained for room and board (at least two meals per day, housekeeping and personal care) in one-bedroom apartments or private rooms with baths. Home care rates were based on hourly rates for home health aides at licensed agencies and agency-provided homemaker/companion services. Adult day service costs reflect daily rates at licensed facilities for the majority, though licensing requirements vary by state.

The bottom line is there are not enough nursing homes to accommodate the baby boomers’ future needs, even if they could afford the care. It’s about cost and space. So a good look at incorporating universal design applications may be just what the doctor ordered.

Tom Kelly is a former real estate editor for the Seattle Times. His book “Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit from Property South of the Border” was written with Mitch Creekmore of Stewart International.
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