A New Generation in Universal Design
According to an ASID survey of U.S. homeowners, most Americans (82%) want to remain in their homes as they age, even if they should require assistance and care. Furthermore, it has been documented that more than half (52%) of American homeowners age 45 and older are interested in receiving information about remaining in their homes as they get older. While the topic of aging in place has been a recent buzz phrase – delved into by shelter magazines nationwide and abroad – it is a relatively new phenomenon; one that is gaining serious momentum, not only in the building industry, but amongst interior designers and homeowners, as well.
“In the last five years homeowners have started to understand how important aging in place is,” says Professor of Gerontology at California State University, Long Beach – Melanie Horn Mallers, P.H.D. “The boomer generation especially doesn’t want to be called old. They do not want to live in the traditional conception of a nursing home or assisted living facility as they grow older. They want to live in the comforts of their own home, with pride, control and dignity; they want to maintain their youthfulness and this has more than encouraged aging in place.”
Furthermore, Horn Mallers relays that the boomer generation is open to talking about the issues associated with aging and they are willing to ask for assistance, as they know that this is crucial to enhancing their quality of life.
So as the savvy boomer generation becomes interested in modifying their home to meet their needs, the term aging in place has become synonymous with aging in style.
“We boomers don’t plan on quitting anytime soon,” said ASID member Pat Rowen in an article entitled, The Boomer Boom is Coming. “We want it all: comfort, beauty, function, safety and style.”
To give the boomer generation all that they want, numerous manufacturers have recently been pushing the envelope with innovative, functional and stylish product designs, which enhance interiors rather than transforming them into the stereotypical nursing home.
To make the transition of aging in place easier on the eyes, manufacturers such as JACLO have created a full decorative slate of luxury grab bars, which come in seven styles and 16 finishes. They also do specialized finishes to match existing décor. Their grab bars can also be outfitted with an adjustable slider, which their line of handshowers can be attached to, allowing the user to sit (either on a bench or in a wheelchair) for a more comfortable bathing experience.
“Aging in place products are crucial not only to the homeowner, but also to a caregiver or family member who might visit the home on a frequent basis,” says Horn Mallers. “Helping an aging person can be physically demanding especially if the right equipment is not installed.”
Horn Mallers relays that one of the most popular products purchased is the grab bar, however she also mentions that raising toilet height, securing rugs, using hands-free faucets, replacing door knobs with levers and lowering cabinet heights have been key modifications.
Swiss company Laufen has created a line of wall-hung toilets from their designer collections, which are stylish and ADA-compliant. Their wall-hung toilets from the Palomba and ILBAGNOALESSI dOt collections can be adjusted to work within the guidelines set by the American Disability Act.
“Being able to decide where you want to live enhances dignity and maximizes self fulfilment,” says Horn Mallers. “Boomers want their home to be functional so that they do not feel dependant on others. There is no doubt that the market will keep up with their needs.”
Melanie Horn Mallers, Ph.D. is a professor at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). She teaches undergraduate and master level students in gerontology, human development, family studies, as well as health courses. She currently advises CSULB’s Gerontology Certificate Program, as well as oversees its chapter of the National Honor Society in Gerontology. She is an active member of the Gerontological Society of Aging (GSA) and the California Council of Gerontology and Geriatrics (CCGG). Her research includes examination of the link between aging and health. She is currently working on a collaborative grant with the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at UC Irvine on daily stressors and adaptation to chronic health conditions.Dr. Mallers serves as a private consultant to families regarding caregiving and other age-related issues, including home safety, housing, and access to community based resources, as well as to business and community agencies regarding the cultural, economic and social influences on their aging customers/clients. If you would like to contact her, please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org