NEW RESEARCH FROM THE AMERICAN Institute of Architects reveals that although many boomers currently live an active lifestyle, they are designing their homes to accommodate a future decrease in mobility. Sixty-two percent of design firms reported that accessibility is a major factor in home design. Features such as wider hallways and fewer steps make aging in place a more viable option for boomers in the years to come. Single-floor design is also gaining popularity, with 29 percent of firms reporting an increase in demand for that plan. The survey is conducted quarterly with a panel of 600 architecture firms that specialize in residential construction.
Karen Harris, former chairperson of the AIA's Small Project Practitioner Knowledge Community, says that this information is incentive for designers to be more creative.
“We need to get a lot more out in the public … elegant designs [that allow for aging in place] that you wouldn't even notice,” she says. “So much [accessibility] can be invisible so it doesn't look like a nursing home.” She cites decorative front door thresholds that allow people to put items down while rummaging for their keys and grab bars that are incorporated into the wainscot as ways to prepare for aging in place without sacrificing aesthetics.
Harris also says she sees “flexible housing” as an emerging trend in home design. Like aging-in-place design, flexible housing allows for convertibility. Popular with younger buyers, rooms are planned to accommodate growing families by “making spaces that can adapt over time,” she says.
Other survey results show that while living space is increasing both in and outside of the home, lot sizes are shrinking. Forty-three percent of firms indicate that lot sizes are being scaled back. Yet, more than half of firms report that home volumes are on the rise, as ceiling heights increase and finished basements and attics become more popular with homeowners. The heightened demand for more living space is forcing designers to think outside the home, as 47 percent of respondents report an increase in the popularity of decks, porches, and patios.