Housing features such as lever door handles, shower rails and having a bedroom on a home's main level can help older people stay in their homes longer.
Today, however, there is no easy way for researchers to find out what percentage of homes in a community have a specific accessibility feature, or if the homes have any accessibility feature, according to Amanda Lehning and Annie Harmon.
Lehning and Harmon, University of Michigan researchers, included a discussion of housing in a report on "Livable Community Indicators for Sustainable Aging in Place."
The researchers created the report for the Stanford Center on Longevity and the MetLifeMature Market Institute.
The researchers cover topics such as transportation options, health care services, access to shops, and emergency preparedness as well as housing.
Some aging policy specialists have suggested that increasing community livability, and the percentage of older people who live in livable communities, could reduce the percentage of older people who need to move into care facilities, and also reduce formal home care needs for older people who stay in their own homes.
"Housing that is accessible, affordable, and adaptable to changing needs over the life span is a critical component of a livable community," Lehning and Harmon said.
Lehning and Harmon found that, for now, the only practical way to assess housing accessibility is to look at whether a community's planning department encourages the incorporation of accessibility features in new housing.
Officials often refer to "visitability" features -- building a building with at least one zero-step entrances; building all interior doors so that they provide at least 81 centimeters of unobstructed passage space; and putting at least a bathroom with a toilet on the main floor.
In Irvine, Calif., for example, "the city provides new homebuyers with a form detailing visitability features and their associated costs, and also encourages builders to distribute a brochure on accessible home featuresto prospective homebuyers," Lening and Harmon said. "While this policy appearsto have little effect on homebuyers,there is evidence that builders are now making many visitability features standard in newly constructed homes."
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