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Boomers: Shifting household needs create home design opportunities


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Updated: 1/25/2013 9:33 am Published: 10/04/2012 11:02 am


(BPT) - Boomers expect to stay in their homes and live independently into their later years, but in the midst of change that is occurring in their households, it's easy for them to lose focus on planning for their own future housing needs.

New research by The Hartford shows that 40 percent of boomers have experienced or anticipate experiencing family member changes in and out of the home, mostly related to their children. However, 70 percent of boomers have not made design changes to their living space, perhaps due to the fact that they don't know if their children will move back home, notes Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist at The Hartford. Changes that increase your home's livability allow you to stay in your home longer and make living easy for people of all ages, sizes and abilities.

'Most of us want to stay in our homes as we age, which often requires making the design choices to help us do that,' says Olshevski. Moving, remodeling or simply redecorating, all present opportunities to incorporate design factors that make your home comfortable and safe for everyone you care about, from small children to older individuals. While a life transition might cause you to halt your plans for improvements, Olshevski recommends taking the opposite approach and using it as an opportunity to incorporate more accessible design into the home.

By following the principles of universal design - what's good for people of all ages, sizes and abilities - you can make sure your home is more livable across your lifetime, and can stand up to any life changes that come your way.

Olshevski recommends concentrating on three design elements in order to accommodate changing needs over a lifetime:

* Adaptability. Is your home flexible and functional for family and friends now and in the future? For example, if you're installing a new bathroom sink, you might consider storage space in the cabinet underneath. You may also want to make sure the cabinet opening is at least 36 inches wide, which allows a wheel chair to slide in between the doors when open and makes the sink accessible to all. Or, if you're installing new kitchen countertops, think about choosing a design with multiple heights to increase flexibility and comfort for things such as standing for food preparation or sitting to check for recipes on the computer.

* Ease. Any components you add to your home should be easy to use. For example, improvements like pull-out drawers for easy access in kitchens and bathrooms can help make reaching for items easier. If you're replacing door handles or faucets, opt for lever style handles that are easier to turn.

* Openness. Open floor plans are becoming more the trend, but it's not just for style reasons. More open space means additional room to maneuver, eliminating obstacles for those who have mobility challenges. Improvements like rounding edges on countertops can also help eliminate sharp objects that could cause injury.

Recognizing both that people are living longer and wish to remain in their homes, and seeing the types of transitions that families have gone through over the past few years, The Hartford has dedicated a section of its website to helping people make their homes more livable across a lifetime, meeting the needs of every age and everyone. More resources for getting your home ready for the rest of your life can be found at www.thehartford.com/lifetime.


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