Housing Design – the Future is Now

September 29, 2017 | DesignPhiladelphia

When it comes to the future of housing, it is clear that our nation’s housing is severely deficient.

By 2030, one in every five Americans will be over age 65, and our nation will face a severe shortage in appropriate housing to meet their needs. Nearly 9 of 10 people age 65 and older want to remain in their homes and communities as they get older. But far too often, their communities and their homes don't fit them anymore. Instead of being a place that makes them feel safe, secure and comfortable, just the opposite happens. Their homes and communities become barriers to remaining independent and engaged in society. There is a lack of housing with basic features that support aging. There are not enough options that would allow them to downsize but stay in their neighborhoods. And there is a lack of affordable housing as well as access to services that can help a community serve people of all ages, incomes and abilities.

Only one percent of existing housing stock includes recommended accessibility features: no-step entry, single-floor living, extra-wide hallways and doors, accessible outlets and light switches, and lever-style handles. And today, more than 19 million older adults live in inadequate or unaffordable housing.

The time to prepare for the future is now.

That’s the reason that many organizations, including AARP, are focusing on initiatives to make our communities more livable for all ages, and sparking new solutions for affordable housing options.  

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.

Through the Future of Housing Initiative, AARP is developing strategies to address the senior housing crisis and make all of our communities affordable and welcoming for people regardless of age, background, circumstance, or physical ability.

Technology, innovation and collaboration could help create a future of housing that will bring new choices and new ways to live engaged, purposeful and meaningful lives as we all age. But the focus should shift from senior housing to housing that lasts an entire lifetime.

In Philadelphia, AARP will be presenting at the DesignPhiladelphia Conference on October 11th to discuss AARP’s new Home Design Toolkit which can help make affordable housing the centerpiece of communities where all ages can live and thrive.


Center for Architecture and Design, 1218 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 | 12:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.


To receive a copy of AARP’s free book series titled Where We Live: Communities for All Ages, click here.  This series highlights inspiring ideas and solutions from America's community leaders to improve their communities, respond to pressing issues, and build partnerships. These free AARP books are available in print and e-book formats. 

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