Building for Boomers

As America’s population ages, the demographic which needs accessible housing is increasing. The Baby Boomer generation, one of the largest generations, is entering their retirement years. This increase in the aging population means that more accessible homes are needed. In addition, an estimated 56 million Americans – not just the elderly – have some sort of disability. What are you, as a builder, doing proactively to accommodate the needs of this generation?

Handicapped

While the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated requirements for accessibility in public places, it has no bearing on private residences. Nonetheless, it is to your advantage as a builder to think about accessibility as well as to incorporate it into your construction.

CUSTOMIZATION: You may get a customer who realizes they need a house with accessibility. In this case, work with them to ascertain their specific needs and create a home which meets those needs. Whether it’s wider doorways, a bathroom which could accommodate a wheelchair or a plan which avoids a second story, you likely would be able to help them.

But what if you get a customer who is not disabled? Would you build in the same features for them? Probably not. You should, however, ask these customers if they might have a need for accessibility in the future. Perhaps a mother-in-law will need to live with them a few years from now. In that case, they should think about her needs. Do they intend to stay in this house for the rest of their lives? If so, they would likely eventually need accessible features. In the long run, your customers will appreciate your raising these questions, as it shows you are thinking about what is best for them.

TOO PRICEY? You might think that adding accessible features as a standard will drive the price of your homes higher. This is not necessarily true. If you are building a 2-story home, why not put a master bedroom on the first floor? This would provide ease of access in the event of a future disability which could prevent use of stairs. Another easy and relatively inexpensive idea is to not have a step up or down into the garage. This is a small thing, yet it will help anyone who has difficulty doing stairs. (If local codes do not permit this, you may want to discuss how this can be approved with code officials.) Also think about the size of a wheel chair. Could you make doorways wide enough to accommodate that, perhaps 3 feet wide? Could you make thresholds between rooms smooth, with no lip? Could the bathroom have a walk-in, no lip shower that could allow a wheelchair to roll into it? Adding “smart” features, such as Wi-Fi controlled outlets and light switches, can allow voice control of appliances and lighting. Small modifications such as these can increase accessibility options, but have low impact on overall cost.

Thinking outside the box in terms of accessibility will set you apart as a builder. Start now to take steps to provide for the needs of an older population. Your increased business will thank you!

Ideas in this post gathered from Building Homes With Accessibility in Mind by Andy Stauffer, Builderonline Jan 20, 2016, and Tips on Building an Accessible Home by B. Duerstock, Purdue.edu.

 

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s