As mentioned in another article, we are all “seniors-in-training” and should reasonably consider ourselves “temporarily abled.” Only then can we focus broad attention on the need to address accessibility in the planning and design of (all) housing, neighborhoods and communities. This recent study published in the Journal of the American Planning Association confirms what disability and senior advocates have always known: failure to design the built environment results in social costs through increase demands on public resources for institutional care (vs. less expensive home/community based care) and decreases options for independent living and aging-in-place.
Rough estimates in Idaho show that for each Medicaid recipient that can remain at home instead of going to institutional care, the state would save $32,000 per year. The cost to design and build homes with basic accessible features is minimal…a few hundred dollars. The result is a perpetual asset for occupants, neighborhoods, communities and the economy.
Please read this and share it with your local planning and building department, architects and engineers, elected officials and policy makers. Housing consumers can demand. We can all work to acheive a net gain in access with every home built. Thanks to Sarah Fisher of the Idaho Human Rights Commission for submitting this item!
Problem: The elderly population of the United States is large and growing rapidly. Since disability rates increase with age, population aging will bring substantial increases in the number of disabled persons and have a significant impact on the nation’s housing needs.
Purpose: We demonstrate the impact of population growth and aging on the projected number of households with at least one disabled resident and estimate the probability that a newly built single-family detached unit will have at least one disabled resident during its expected lifetime.
Methods: We calculate disability rates using two alternative measures of disability and construct projections of the number of households with at least one disabled resident. We develop and apply a technique for estimating the probability that a newly built single-family detached unit will house at least one disabled resident using data on the average lifespan of those units, the average length of residence for households occupying those units, and the projected proportion of households with at least one disabled resident.
Results and conclusions: Under our medium assumptions, we project that 21% of households will have at least one disabled resident in 2050 using our first disability measure (physical limitation) and 7% using our second (self-care limitation). We estimate that there is a 60% probability that a newly built single-family detached unit will house at least one disabled resident during its expected lifetime using our first measure, and a 25% probability using our second measure. When disabled visitors are accounted for, the probabilities rise to 91% and 53%, respectively. Given the desire of most people to live independently for as long as possible, these numbers reflect a large and growing need for housing units with features that make them accessible to disabled persons.
Takeaway for practice: The lack of accessible housing provides an opportunity for homebuilders to develop and market products that meet the needs of an aging population. In light of concerns about the civil rights of people with disabilities and the high public cost of nursing home care, housing accessibility is a critical issue for planners and policymakers as well. We believe planners should broaden their vision of the built environment to include the accessibility of the housing stock.
Download and read the full PDF on Aging and Disability.