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What Is An Accessible Home and Why Are They Growing in Popularity?

By Tabitha Naylor

According to the chief economist of the American Institute of Architects accessible homes are a trend that is expected to get bigger. "It's strictly an aging-related thing: Boomers are getting older, and parents of boomers are getting older."

The baby boomer generation that are in the process of retiring, or nearing retirement are beginning to think seriously about what their homes need to look like if they are going to remain in their homes and "age in place."

What do accessible homes look like in the mind of these baby boomers? It means single-story homes with wider doors and open, easy to navigate floor plans that can accommodate a wheelchair, bathrooms with grab bars, fewer or no stairs inside or outside the home, and wheelchair ramps. Other features inside the house can include lower set cabinets, sinks and a stove that has knobs or controls on the front to make it easier for shorter individuals and those in wheelchairs. Remote controlled blinds and lighting are other types of accessibility features that may or may not be important to the homeowner.

Designing and building a home that is accessible costs about 5 per cent more than a home that is not accessible but remodeling a home to be accessible can become very costly.

It is important to think about whether or not the home you are buying will be your "forever" home where you plan to retire and grow old or whether it is an interim home. If you are planning to remain in the home you buy then it pays to take time to think about what you want that home to look like when you are older and perhaps have more limited physical capacity. That includes the building site as well as the house.

If you are considering building an accessible home or remodeling your existing home you may want to contact and work with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. This is a specialist who has successfully completed the training required to obtain a CAPS certificate. The requirements are developed by the National Home Builders Remodelers Council, the NAHS Research Center, the 50+ Housing council, and AARP. This step ensures your accessible home is built to be safe and to meet your needs as you age.

You may also think about a multi-generational, accessible home. This is a variation where the home has two separate, distinct living areas designed to accommodate more than one generation of a family. It is another way of helping people age in place. Multi-generational homes can also be built as an accessible house. Either the smaller self-contained unit can be built as an accessible home or the entire property can built as an accessible home.

The stock of accessible and multi-generational housing is definitely on the increase. Speak with your realtor if you are interested in purchasing an accessible home, or an accessible multi-generational home. They can help guide you in defining what you want in the home and help find the right builder, or the right forever home for you and your family.

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