Entrance ramps. Wider hallways. Roomier bathrooms. Each could be an attractive asset to graying Baby Boomer homeowners–so long as you don't call them Universal Design.
For many Baby Boomers who still work, are involved in their communities, and bristle at the thought of being called senior citizen, there's no desire to follow their parents to the Sun Belt. A 2009 study by MetLife Mature Market Research and NAHB found that 63% of the Baby Boomers surveyed desired to age where they now reside.
As for what they envision in a home for their golden years, stairs are out, as 79% in the same study said they preferred a single-story home. Storage was key, as was a washer and dryer, windows that open easily, a master bedroom on the first floor of a multi-story house, and accessible thermostats.
To accommodate this growing number of aging homeowners, the building industry is retrenching. According to NAHB Remodelers Executive Director Therese Crahan, since 2002 the trade group has certified about 3,500 remodelers to become aging in place specialists. "It's one of NAHB's fastest-growing programs ever," she says.
Part of the program is training in Universal Design, in which elements like ramps, lower counters, and handles attached to walls make homes accessible to everyone. It's also a term, according to advertising strategist Chuck Nyren, shunned by many active adults as it conjures up images of nursing homes and retirement communities.
"Universal Design is for old people," he writes in An Interactive Guide: Advertising to Baby Boomers. "And Baby Boomers (at least according to popular myth) eschew anything that smacks of 'old' or 'senior.'" That's likely to mean Boomers won't want these amenities ... until they need them.