How to Make a Community Aging in Place-Suitable

Statistics show that 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 would prefer to stay in their current residence. At this point, developers and property managers should pay close attention.

By Alexandra Pacurar

alexandra_pacurarAdults living in a house where they feel comfortable, a place they call home, do not have any desire to move even if they get older and their needs change and daily chores become more like burdens. Statistics show that 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 would prefer to stay in their current residence. At this point, developers and property managers should pay close attention. Especially the ones in the affordable housing sector.

But how exactly do you start? What’s the first thing you do? If the building is already completed, what needs to change? If you’re just starting to plan a housing project, how can you address this situation? Can this be done in a very cost-efficient way? All these questions were answered in two guides published by Enterprise Community Partners.

The first, “Aging in Place Design Guidelines for Independent Living in Multifamily Buildings,” targets architects and developers. This design guide covers construction and renovation of buildings so that they are age-friendly, safe and comfortable. The document is structured so that each phase of a project is covered, from site, general building topics, unit layout and finishes to room by room considerations and innovative technology. The latter is a common theme for discussions when it comes to aging in place.

Gadgets can make a senior’s life easier and more organized. In the guide, you’ll find information on artificially intelligent pets that don’t need so much care and attention, while maintenance costs less. Still, they have mental and social benefits for aging residents. Also, electronic pill dispensers can be lifesavers for seniors with memory loss. Actually, these could also be useful for younger people with busy lives and lots of things on their agenda.

The second is “Addressing the Needs of Aging Tenants in Your Building,” a New York-focused guide aimed at helping property managers and affordable housing providers support their aging residents. The document includes solutions to common problems that arise in such communities and financial and logistic tools to help implement such plans and programs. I am sure you’re already calculating costs of these measures, but know that there are simple things that can be done without blowing your budget.

One would be setting up peer network support groups to encourage socialization and also ensure a certain supervision of senior residents living alone. Another would be using interns or volunteers for data collection and analysis. You can even partner with a university to help students get credit for their work. Actually, speaking of partnerships, teaming up with health care institutions and organizations can also be a great way to ensure certain services for senior residents without spending a whole lot.

This guide also includes a chapter on design, but this time it zeros in on home modifications for injury prevention and avoiding social isolation. An urgent matter for senior residents living in a rental concerns the monthly fee they pay to the landlord. With a limited budget, aging citizens might struggle to make it from one month to the next. The solution is the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program, a tool that “freezes” the rent of senior residents who meet certain requirements (age, low income etc.). The landlord receives the difference between the contract rent and the frozen rent in refundable property tax credits.