There can be policies or best practices developed. There can even be some laws passed. However, creating a national guideline with the law behind it that would tell people how they needed to live, how homes had to be built, and how public facilities had to be accommodating would only appeal to a certain amount of the population while ignoring the rest. We already have many initiatives that focus on seniors and aging. We have the ADA, UFAS, and ANSI that tell us how to create homes and areas of public accommodation for people with physical limitations.
What we don't have in this country - and never will - is a homogeneous population or housing stock. Even within a given age cohort or generation, there is a tremendous amount of diversity. While we can make generalizations about Baby Boomers, Gen Xers or Millennials, there is a tremendous amount of variance in social behavior in addition to any similarities that might exist.
Even within a given household of more than one person, there may be common values but a difference in ability and needs. How, then, can we have an umbrella policy or set of guidelines that describes how homes are to be constructed or appointed that appeals to everyone? Even using universal design that suggests that the features will appeal to all ages and abilities, we know that there are some special needs that require even more treatment. We know that some people require accessibility improvements to accommodate the specific type of impairment.
Rather than wish for a set of rules or guidelines that would suggest best practices for people to age successfully in their homes or to recommend features to install or include in those homes to assist people with their aging needs, let's continue to allow our personal inspection of a space and determination of what we think is best for the individuals in that dwelling as we create client-specific recommendations for them.
Who knows better than us - and the team we assemble - how to analyze a specific living space and the requirements and needs of the individuals in that space to determine what is needed and to formulate a strategy for achieving the improvements that will help them at a budget they can fund?
Any model that might be created - assuming that it could - would necessarily look at trends and commonalities. It could not take into account the tremendous variations in the age of dwellings, the physical characteristics of those structures, and the physical needs and requirements of individuals. As with any average, some would be in the middle and would fall under what was created. Other would fall away from the center toward either end and could not be addressed by such a policy.
This keeps us, as aging in place professionals, squarely in the loop of deciding what is best for our clients based on how we evaluate their specific situations and needs.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.