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February 11, 2012

Comments

Coach Purses

Oh wow.... Congrats... Best of luck for your future...

Ryan Yowell

You offer an interesting micro view into a subject that we’ve only really discussed in the macro. We’ve discussed numerous times that, yes, senior housing is an important component of housing policy. But what should these houses look like? I would agree that senior housing neighborhoods are not necessarily the way to go; why would older generations want to live away from younger ones? “Growing in place,” while not for everyone, seems like a great alternative to the senior housing project. Your content is definitely a refreshing change to that on macro policy, but I did have a few issues with your sources.

First off, I’m not sure how using 20-year-old Census data helps your claim. While I don’t see the numbers changing too drastically from 1992 to now, it would have been nice to have a more recent statistic on moving. I think this source could have been used better to support your claim that most people are simply moving to a bigger (or smaller!) homes—most moving done during that Census was within the same county of the respondents.

Additionally, I believe your “active family of four” source actually contradicts your argument. In my opinion, the video shows that families are able to live in smaller areas and actually enjoy it. “She doesn’t dream about more space, but just less stuff.” Of course, this example from Spain does not represent the opinions of all Americans, but it is an alternative that does not necessarily help your argument. Finally, I would have loved to have seen a few sources for your suggestion list. Yes, they all generally make sense, but what are some examples in the real world?

Overall, I enjoyed your blog entry. But if you were to continue research on the subject (and I know you are planning on it!), I would consider looking into a few more aspects of growing in place to help strengthen your argument. Specifically, how does renting fit into this equation? You talk mainly about home ownership, it seems, but renting is also a good option for seniors. What suggestions would you have for renters looking at growing in place? Also, consider the changing family structure in America. While you don’t say it directly, I get the feeling this is written towards the nuclear family. While most of your ideas can be applied to any type of individual or family situation, be sure to consider, again, the alternatives. Check out http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/04/the-end-of-marriage-husband-wife-households-at-record-lows-2010-census/ to see just how drastically the structure of the American family has changed in the past few decades. How can growing in place advocates like you take this into account?

Again, good job on the blog entry. I look forward to reading more from you on growing in place!

Rosalyn Keesee

This entry was one that interested me on many levels and for many reasons. As an architect, I have engaged in many debates on how best to provide aging in place opportunities. As a person whose older sister has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, I know from a personal level the many ways small decisions can greatly affect the livability of a place and a community. And as I read this article, I could hear my mother saying (as she said many times) that she couldn’t understand why anyone would design a house that didn’t have at least one bedroom or study on the ground floor. After all, that is one of the most forward thinking things you can do in a house – something that is appreciated when it’s time for an elderly family member to move in or after breaking a leg in a skiing accident.

Aging in place is typically considered in the physical terms of a house. But it should also be considered at the community level. For if community interaction is how social capital is built, it is important that social capital can be built and expended throughout one’s life. For without an accessible and visitable community, as people age, they often withdraw from the community. I am reminded of an elderly lady who lived down the street from me when I was young and rarely came outside. While we all assumed she was a cranky, old lady who didn’t like kids, she in fact was very sweet but lonely. Had we had more interaction with her, we would have known this. We could have shared common interests and develop a friendship whereby we begin to look out for one another. It is this mutual respect, the concern for each other’s well being that is important to foster and maintain, especially as one ages.

If we review the various strategies for a community’s physical development, there are several approaches that may promote community interaction and build social capital:

• Development of mixed-income communities: This would assume that a mixed-income community is also a multi-generational community that would provide a social network through which the young and the old help and teach each other (thus building social capital).

• Development of mixed-used and/or transit oriented development: This would provide greater services to the elderly, allowing them to retain their independence even if they are unable to drive.

• Zoning policies to encourage the development of accessory dwelling units: These apartments, whether they are internal or external to the primary dwelling, provide either a place to which an elderly person can move to be near family while maintaining his or her independence, or a source of income as a rental unit. As a possible income stream, this allows the primary house to remain affordable even as inflation and housing costs rise.

• Development of flex housing options: Designing in flexibility and adaptability to a house allows it to grow and contract as family dynamics change. I would think that this would have wide market appeal as well – from the first-time homebuyers, to young couples and empty nesters.

It is good that we are discussing strategies for aging in place. And it is important to make provisions for it as we revisit our housing policies. With the rising costs of healthcare and the uncertainty of the housing market itself, providing opportunities for people to remain in their homes or with families longer is critical.

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