Homeowners can’t afford to avoid aging

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Avi Friedman, For The Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, May 03, 2008
The thought that sometime in the not-so-distant future they will move with the help of a walker or use diapers does not easily enter the mind of middle-aged people.

No wonder. In a society that glorifies youthful energy and beauty, who wants to think old?

Still, we know that there will come a time when we won’t be able to run as fast, carry as much, think as clearly, see as far, or hear as well.
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Font:****Some of us will have to succumb to the fact that we are old.

Among the many things that we need to reflect on is where we are going to reside and how we will be taken care of.

Will our current dwelling conditions be sufficiently comfortable in the future? And how long will we be able to live in them independently?

Enabling the elderly to age in place or disabled individuals to function in their own residence is regarded as contributing to the occupants’ health and self-esteem and to societal sustainability.

Such considerations are a result of recognition by governments that the number of elderly is expected to rise and institutional care will not be available to, or affordable by, all.

Rather, encouraging people to use their homes and installing appropriate accommodations is the recommended approach.

This notion is largely supported by legislation in many countries that mandates accommodation of people with reduced mobility in their homes and in public places.

In the United States, for example, under the access requirement for housing programs receiving federal financial assistance, five per cent of new apartments constructed within a funded project must be wheelchair accessible.

Fitting a home for use by the occupants at a later stage of their lives or by persons with special needs might have a limited advantage as opposed to making it usable throughout the residency.

Universal design promotes the need to design housing — or any building, for that matter — to be usable by everybody at all times.

An example of this approach is raising the height of electrical receptacles from their current low position near the floor so that plugging in electrical devices becomes simple for all, including people using wheelchairs.

Despite the fact that special assistance is offered in the projects described here, the general approach of universal design — that of incorporating consumer products and design features that are easily usable and commonly available — was adopted.

When an accessory item is developed by designers and offered by developers for elderly users, it must address their needs and concerns.

In addition, buyers with limited mobility may require a unique assortment of accessible components, such as handrails, raised toilets, and stair lifts.

The necessity for modules like kitchens and bathrooms to be easily exchangeable is of paramount importance.

If a middle-aged person purchases a home and lives there for a long time, at some point his or her mobility may decrease.

The home must never be a source of physical stress on those with limited mobility, who are unable or unwilling to purchase an entirely new home at that time.

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