Sep. 28, 1998 ITHACA, N.Y. -- Evaluating how suitable our homes are for growing old in should be just as routine as financial planning for retirement, says a Cornell University housing expert.
Adapting homes for age-related disabilities would not only help older people remain in their homes and live independently but also would benefit society by reducing the need for long-term care, according to Joseph Laquatra, professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell. If such modifications are incorporated during building or remodeling, costs are not necessarily high, yet they enhance a home's marketability, Laquatra reported at the European Network for Housing Research Conference in Wales, Sept. 7-11.
"Modifications are often made when a disabled or elderly person suddenly needs them," said Laquatra, who co-authored his research paper with Peter Chi, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell. "A more efficient approach is to incorporate such modifications through the course of home remodeling projects."
Laquatra said that 75 percent of Americans over age 65 own their own homes. About 13 percent of the U.S. population will be over 65 by the year 2000, rising to 20 percent by 2030, or about 52 million people. Laquatra urged tomorrow's elderly to begin planning for aging today so that their homes will be suitable for age-related disabilities.
"Since most older people prefer to remain in their own homes, whether alone or with a spouse, it makes sense to incorporate modifications for the elderly while building or home remodeling," Laquatra said.
Laquatra and Chi submitted a partial list of more than 50 design elements for the elderly person, including:
-- Lever-type door handles
-- Package shelf near the latch side of the entrance door
-- Lighted door bell
-- Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer
-- Lever faucets
-- Loop handles on cabinets
-- No thresholds between rooms
-- French doors instead of glass sliders
-- Dense, tightly woven carpeting.
"These kinds of features, just as easily incorporated as other features during remodeling, can go a long way in helping an elderly person age in place," Laquatra said. "Builders, remodelers and home owners need to become more aware of what is possible through design and keep these features in mind when building and remodeling. Modifying homes can have a major influence on the quality of life of the elderly and can benefit society as a whole by controlling costs of long-term care."
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