When we hear the term “age-in-place,” we generally picture an older couple sitting happily in their one-story, accessible home. Fresh muffins are cooling on the counter and Frank is considering taking his walker onto the back patio to catch the morning sun. Okay maybe not that exactly, but it’s a pretty positive outlook, isn’t it?
The thing is, it’s not only older couples who are interested in accessible homes. Young families are catching on that if they build their home to be accessible now, it gives them very rewarding long-term benefits.
The basis behind aging-in-place is designing houses with ultimate accessibility; this way, people can continue to live in their home as their bodies become less mobile. For example, if at some point you start using a wheelchair or walker, you wouldn’t want stairs blocking access to important areas of your home. Narrow doorways can create daily challenges, too. Your house would suddenly become full of obstacles — unless you design for it ahead of time.
This seems like a far-off problem for many young families, though. So why are they preparing so early?
Why Some Millennials Are Building Accessible Homes
Designing an accessible space can also be referred to as Universal Design.
“Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.”National Disability Authority
It means keeping everyone in mind when designing a space; it’s something that should be considered in all public places and is becoming popular in homes, too.
There are several reasons why a young family would want to incorporate Universal Design into their home. The most obvious reason is that they’re planning for the super long-term.
#1: Planning For Retirement
It’s in our years after retirement that our bodies start to change more dramatically. Hopefully we’ve spent many years exercising and being healthy to ward off the less pleasant effects of aging — but our bodies will likely change in some way, regardless.
It’s common to lose a degree of mobility which makes using stairs more difficult (and dangerous). Bungalows are therefore becoming more popular since they have minimal stairs.
Building an accessible home early can save homeowners money and stress in the long run.
It can be a shock when you realize your body doesn’t work the way it used to. Many seniors learn this and realize their home is no longer the safest place for them to be. They start looking for a new place to settle into and begin mentally preparing to part ways with the home they’ve known for years.
This added stress can be a huge burden. Are there options in their neighbourhood? Will they have to move farther away from their family? What can they afford? Can they take Scruffles the cat?
Financially, if you stay in your own home you can save a lot of the paper work and costs that come with moving into a condo or retirement home. Plus, moving your things into a new place can be a long, tiring process (any antique collectors out there?).
#2: Fully Accommodating Guests
From fresh towels to the colourful vase you bought in Mexico — people spend so much time decorating their homes because they want them to feel welcoming for themselves and for guests. Now, we’re simply taking this a step further.
Let’s say this young family starts hosting Christmases at their house and invites their parents to stay. Or perhaps they want their folks to move-in full time so they can make things a little easier and more comfortable. They’ll want their house to be totally safe.
Many seniors find that stepping into the bathtub becomes more difficult as they age, so they opt for walk-in bathtubs or barrier-free showers with grab bars. Having these in your home could be an amazing help for guests. It means they get to maintain a sense of independence and privacy if mobility is a concern.
Or, consider what happens when you host a potluck but one of your friends can’t quite manage your front steps? In a world that’s striving to become more inclusive, many people are realizing the barriers that exist for so many people with disabilities.
The main take-away: people want to design their homes to be great for both themselves and for guests.
#3: Increasing Resale Value
As more people realize the importance of a home with universal design, demand will continue to increase. If the family ever changes their mind and wants to try living somewhere else (that ocean breeze sounds nice, doesn’t it?), their home likely won’t sit on the market for very long.
There are many ways to make a home accessible like proper lighting, wider doorways, walk-in bathtubs, hardwood floors, and properly designed counters. If you know anyone building a house soon, they might be interested in the concept of a universal home!