It's just a matter of time, says Mettina van der Veen, before thousands of baby boomers find they can no longer easily live in their homes.
Just getting through the front door of many homes will be a challenge as age brings mobility problems, says the program and replication project director for EasyLiving Home. “Our goal is to have the building industry start building houses with basic access [for wheelchairs] so that later on, when the owner does become impaired, they don't have to spend $30,000 to $40,000 to make their house accessible, “ she says.
EasyLiving Home was founded in 2002 in Georgia by a coalition of public and government agencies and advocacy groups, including AARP Georgia, Concrete Change, Fannie Mae Atlanta Partnership Office, Universal Design Alliance, and the Home Builders Association of Georgia.
The organization certifies builders and their homes as EasyLiving Homes if they include a handful of features that make it easier for people to stay in their homes over time.
To be certified, homes must have at least one step-free entrance into the main living area; doorways on the first floor at least 2-feet-10-inches wide; and an accessible bedroom, kitchen, and entertainment area on the first floor. Attracting builders to the EasyLiving Home program has been a bit of an uphill battle.
The builders are stubborn about it, she says. “Their argument is that the market is not demanding it. People just don't realize what it is they need.”
“We are working on making this a nationally recognized program,” she says.
So far, only local builders have signed on, says van der Veen. Negotiating through the decision-making ranks at large builders has been a problem, she says.
The Home Builders Association of Georgia has helped by educating its members. “They understand that there is going to be a housing problem eventually,” she says. “It's just the right thing to do. It's the necessary thing to do.”