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Home Sweet Home - Livable Oregon

Age-friendly home
Photo: Age-Friendly Innovators
Remus Cordero

By Elaine Friesen-Strang

Sharon and Howard Johnson loved their old Victorian two-story home overlooking the Rogue River Valley. Their home of 14 years is where they planned to enjoy their retirement. But despite active, healthy lifestyles, and defiant resolve to prove otherwise, our bodies do change with the years; the Johnsons weren't in denial. After learning the cost of making their home accessible was "prohibitive", they sought to find a new home that was designed with an older, differently abled person in mind. Not finding a home that met the age friendly criterion they were seeking, they built one. In fact, they built five, became Certified Aging in Place Specialists, and created the non-profit Age Friendly Innovators.

Chances are good you've settled comfortably into your home and aren't planning to rent a moving van any day soon. AARP surveyed 1600 people over the age of 45 in 2010 and found that 73% wanted to stay in their current homes as long as possible. But does your home have stairs? How wide are those doors and hallways? How accessible are your bathrooms? Forbes Magazine bluntly says aging in place "might be a pipe dream" and goes on to say "the existing housing stock is unprepared to meet the escalating need for affordability, accessibility, social connectivity and supportive services,”. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found "only 1% of housing units meet all five of universal design criterion. Only 57% of homes have more than one of these features." Since most of us do not have the option of building a new home, we find ourselves caught in the "senior housing crisis".

AARP addressed this issue at an Age Friendly Housing Forum on October 28. Alan DeLa Torre, from the PSU Institute on Aging, laid out the facts: 1.) Between 2025 and 2035, households with people aged 80+ will grow at a higher rate than all other households, except those aged 40-45. 2.) More than 3/4 of individuals over the age of 80 live in their own homes. 3.) The incidence of disabilities increases after age 70. National housing experts say we need well designed, affordable homes close to essential services and infrastructure. We need communities that integrate diversified populations and foster social well-being. DeLa Torre referenced John Pynoos' (Director, National Resource Center on Supportive Housing) description of our growing dilemma: "Peter Pan Housing". We have homes designed for people who are never going to age or grow old.

What followed was lively conversation from panelists and audience participants, most of whom were professionals in the housing field. Opinions vary who is responsible for this crisis, but the sentiment among home owners is the same. We know we need full bathrooms on the main floor and stairless entries. Unfortunately, that's not what we bought 20 years ago and even today, accessibility is not trending in the housing market. Our options are few; seemingly, architects, builders and planners have bought into the Peter Pan myth. Furthermore, the increased value of homes with age friendly features isn't always reflected in appraisals and much of the re-development in established neighborhoods is about adding square footage, decreasing affordability.

What's the solution? How do we change the housing stock to meet the needs of an aging demographic? To begin with we can learn about Lifelong Housing. (Check out the following websites.) We can challenge policymakers and planners. Perhaps attend one of AARPs Staying At Home workshops. Louise Aronson (NYTimes: "New Buildings for Older People") suggests awards for excellence in silver design. "Silver architecture and design aren't about indulging a special interest group. They're about maximizing quality of life and independence for a life stage most of us will reach". That would truly be Home Sweet Home.

 

AARP Livable Communities Portal

AARP Public Policy Institute Livable Communities Resources 

Age-Friendly Portland

Housing America’s Older Adults

RVCOG Lifelong Housing page

 

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Welcome to Livable Oregon.

What makes a community livable? What do neighborhoods need to help people of all ages live active, engaged lives?  Livable Oregon explores the features of age-friendly communities, the people who help create them, and what we can do to make our neighborhoods in Oregon a great place for everyone.

This blog takes its lead from the  AARP Livable Communities Initiative which seeks to improve the quality of life for older adults by promoting the development of safe, accessible, and vibrant environments. AARP Livable Communities  policies address issues such as land use, housing, and transportation which are vital to developing communities that facilitate aging in place.

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About our lead blogger:

My name is  Elaine Friesen-Strang. I understand the need for lifelong, livable communities as a mother who raised two children, a daughter who helped care for her father, a professional guardian who served adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, and a woman who is experiencing the mixed blessings of aging. Volunteering for AARP and other advocacy organizations empowers me to help make my neighborhood and a more livable, sustainable place for everyone.

 


Welcome to Livable Oregon.

What makes a community livable? What do neighborhoods need to help people of all ages live active, engaged lives? Livable Oregon explores the features of age-friendly communities, the people who help create them, and what we can do to make our neighborhoods in Oregon a great place for everyone.

This blog takes its lead from the AARP Livable Communities Initiative which seeks to improve the quality of life for older adults by promoting the development of safe, accessible, and vibrant environments. AARP Livable Communities policies address issues such as land use, housing, and transportation which are vital to developing communities that facilitate aging in place.

————————————–

About our lead blogger:

My name is Elaine Friesen-Strang. I understand the need for lifelong, livable communities as a mother who raised two children, a daughter who helped care for her father, a professional guardian who served adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, and a woman who is experiencing the mixed blessings of aging. Volunteering for AARP and other advocacy organizations empowers me to help make my neighborhood and a more livable, sustainable place for everyone.


- See more at: https://states.aarp.org/steppin-out-livable-oregon/#sthash.MpL0B97j.dpuf

About AARP Oregon
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