When I was shopping for a house in Central Phoenix last year, I had a couple of must-haves on my list. It had to be one-story, smaller than the last three homes I owned and with a wide, open-floor plan. And I wanted it close to public transportation. This isn’t a list that is unusual. Many urban professionals are looking for the same things — convenience, style and simplicity. But it was the reason that I had to have these things on my list that was maybe a bit different: being the long-term planner that I am, I was thinking about aging in place. Sure, it will likely be 25 or more years from now when that will be an issue, but I like to think ahead. When I’m in my late 70s, I would like to think I’ll still be in my own home but adapted for any changed physical condition I might have. When I showed my new house to friends, I’d show them how wide the halls are — perfect for a walker, I’d say to their laughter — or how open the areas are around the island and the dining room-family room, which will come in handy just in case someone at the house is in a wheelchair. And when I am no longer driving, a one-block walk to the bus stop or a quick drop off to the rail station can get me downtown to theaters, City Hall and shopping in less than 20 minutes or to the airport in a snap. Even the backyard is wide and flat in case I want to add a smaller pod-house for me and let my son and his family take over the main building. The house I chose is perfect for me and my small family now and, hopefully will serve me well into my 80s or beyond.
With more than 8,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, the American demographic is about to turn silver. Some people will move into nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Others will move in with children or other relatives. Others will try to stay at home but maybe in houses that are meant for younger kneews and more able bodies. Bob Vila, an aging boomer himself, has been advising us on making our old homes more comfortable for years. Here are his tips for elder-proofing your house — either for a parent who comes to live with you or for yourself as you move into your later years.