Every person, regardless of age, can participate in creating a livable community. According to a newly published report from Generations United and the Eisner Foundation, opportunities that bring different generations together—even the tougher ones involving “tack[ling] critical problems” benefit the entire community.
Though somewhat counterintuitive, finding solutions to meet the needs of older adults must involve voices and collaboration coming from people of all ages. Various generations offer different perspectives, and in fact, people of all ages gain value from age friendly concepts. A recent project we led proved to be a living example.
A Winning Project
The likelihood of having a disability that limits a person’s mobility increases with age. Homes with physical barriers can present risk of falls and injuries, especially for someone with mobility challenges. In 2016, AARP and its partners called for submissions to a competition-style project that sought new solutions for homes that best accommodate our needs as we age. “Re-Defining Home: Home Today, Home Tomorrow,” developed through AARP’s Future of Housing Initiative, asked architects to redesign an existing home while embracing the concept of universal design—that is, design that supports and empowers all people and families: retirees, caregivers and their loved ones, people with disabilities, singles, and young and multigenerational families.
Entrants were challenged to discard typical designs usually targeted towards older adults such as ramps or shower handrails. Rather, competition judges wanted to see evidence of innovative thinking around how affordability, flexibility, community, accessibility, beauty and functionality could best be reflected in a home for people who want to remain in their homes as they age.
The winning team included three junior architects, from IBI Group—Gruzen Samton, Gabriel Espinoza, Carmen Velez, and Timothy Gargiulo—professionals under age 30. Their designs considered what it means to age in place successfully: creating an easily navigable home, incorporating features to reduce fall risks, as well as creating space to nurture and maintain family and community connections. Ms. Velez no doubt drew from her own experience living with her grandmother, Carmencita Bengzon, to help inform the team’s choices. Ultimately, this winning team’s original and imaginative plans were incorporated into a house in Memphis, TN—now the home of a veteran and his family, including his mom, who has limited mobility.
Also achieving success in age disruption was the entry from 11-year old Jennifer Haage, a self-described future architect. (Yes, that’s right—when we say all ages should contribute, we mean all ages.) In her thoughtful and comprehensive proposal, Jenny shared her ideas for aging within a home suitable for all families. Her designs included using wide hallways for wheelchair accessibility, creating multi-functional spaces, adding in interior and exterior green spaces, and incorporating a “cat corner,” since pets can be great companionship for older adults who may feel isolated.
All-Ages Approach a Winning Combination
The Re-Defining Home competition illustrates how accessible home design can be duplicated across the country. The winning team exemplifies younger generations taking action to solve pressing issues that make stronger communities for all. Encouraging and inspiring young people to participate in aging issues can positively impact their families, careers and communities—and help us to make places more livable for people, both today and tomorrow.
You may also like:
- Expanding Implementation of Universal Design and Visitability Features in the Housing Stock — A new publication that raises awareness about the need for universal design and visibility features that make homes more accessible for older adults and their families and also highlights actions that communities can take to encourage the creation of more accessible housing.
- The Future of Housing — AARP and AARP Foundation’s new initiative to address bring awareness to housing challenges that people are facing across the country and to help find solutions to address them.
- Future of Housing: Meeting Accessibility Needs — A video illustrating the needs of people who could benefit from homes with accessible design features.
- Is Your Community the Right Fit?— A blog post about actions that communities can take to become more livable, especially as people age.
- Different Generations, Similar Desire for Walkable Communities— A blog post about vibrant communities with amenities close to home that appeal to both older and younger generations.
Shannon Guzman is a policy research senior analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she works on housing, transportation and land-use issues. Shannon focuses on policies and programs that create livable communities for people of all ages. For more information about livable communities visit, www.aarp.org/livable. Photo: DFinney