Design for aging in place goes mainstream
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
For well over a decade, professional associations related to the building industry have been advising their members to prepare for the coming "silver tsunami" that is the aging of the baby boomer generation.
With the vast majority expecting to "age in place" in their current or "retirement" home, the day would come when they would need to update, upgrade and renovate their homes to make them more age-friendly. That day, it seems, has arrived.
Aside from a relatively small group who have chosen to specialize in this area, designers and remodelers will need to educate themselves on how to best meet the needs of this rapidly growing segment of the industry.
For the second year in a row, the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) fourth-quarter 2016 Home Design Trends Survey reports an increase in demand for accessibility, adaptability and universal design features. The survey focused on kitchen and bath design trends. Rather than relocate or purchase a new home, older homeowners are choosing to invest in improving their current home.
Those with the means are renovating to make the home more age-friendly, not only to improve function and safety but to indulge in a few luxuries as well. AIA members who participated in the survey reported greater demand in bathroom remodels for doorless and larger walk-in showers, along with universal design and adaptability features.
"Bathroom adaptability and accessibility continue to be the primary focus for homeowners," stated AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in releasing the report. "Increasing numbers of homeowners with disability concerns will drive trends in bath design for the foreseeable future."
Although requests for universal design and adaptability features did not rank as high in the category of kitchen remodels, they did increase over the year before. Age-friendly improvements can also be seen in greater demand for sensor faucets, undercounter appliances, and larger pantries.
Similarly, the National Kitchen and Bath’s (NKBA) recently released 2017 Kitchen & Bath Trends Report finds, "Accessible and/or universal design features continue to trend up for kitchens."
As in the AIA survey, the report relates that age-friendly design is also in high demand in bathroom remodels: "The most popular amenities for the bathroom are in the arena of safety and comfort: i.e., comfort heights, shower seats, lighting in showers and no-threshold showers. Emerging amenities are smart toilets, smart toilet seats, music in the shower, easy maintenance features, and radiant floor heating."
Features that matter most to older homeowners are accessibility, adaptability, safety, comfort, ease-of-use, easy maintenance, adequate lighting, ability to easily control temperature and lighting levels, and security. Of course, they also want all the things that most homeowners want, including style, convenience, energy and water efficiency, and design that supports their lifestyle.
For designers and remodelers who are new to this clientele, the most important consideration is to provide them with solutions and products that meet their specific needs for today and the years ahead, and not rely on generalized notions of age-friendly design.
That requires some understanding of the aging process and the challenges that the built environment may present to an elderly occupant. Since these clients are expected to make up a large portion of the design and remodeling market over the next decade, the investment in training will be well worth it.
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