"Universal design" caught my personal attention as Lance Robertson gave a rundown of key areas of health equity addressed by the federal agency he heads, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living.
That is, access isn't the only housing issue facing the nation as we age.
Fundamental changes in home design will be required to keep some of us from having to put the rest of us in institutions, which is a clinical way of saying assisted living, which boomers know as old folks' homes.
I turn 54 on May 2, I think about housing for a living, and I'm surrounded by older boomers and quite a few folks from the so-called Silent Generation born in the 1920s to early '40s. Universal design and renovations for aging in place are on my mind a lot.
So, after Robertson's presentation Thursday at the 2018 Oklahoma Fair Housing & Health Equity Seminar and Regional Housing Forum Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, I grabbed him for a quick chat.
At the Administration for Community Living, he said, "We don't, in most cases, fund any sort of universal design efforts, although we fund a ton of research — rehabilitation research — that goes into what eventually materializes as solutions."
Here's an example, linked to www.acl.gov, from earlier this year: $925,000 offered for research of new technologies to allow people aging with long-term disabilities to age-in-place and maintain independent living. (The application window just closed; no news on whether it was awarded or to whom).
"As they grow older, people with disabilities face significant challenges to aging-in-place due to the complexities of managing multiple secondary conditions," according to the grant announcement. "Technology can support aging-in-place by facilitating social interactions, promoting positive health behaviors, and allowing for effective management of secondary conditions."
In the meantime, for most of us, the immediate needs of aging are more basic.
Low cost, high value
"As one example," Robertson said, "if we have a person that's aging in place, wants to stay at home, so often it's access into that home that can be such a burden that they'll have to leave their home.
"So, an $800 ramp, which is not a ton of money, can be the difference-maker between someone being able to remain indefinitely in their home versus having to go live in a facility or institution."
Some needs can be met at a home or hardware store.
"Bathroom mods (modifications). We all have to go to the bathroom, and so often the ability to do that safely is put in peril because people need a grab bar, or they need to have better floors," Robertson said.
Here are some cold facts from the Administration for Community Living:
• "There are 65 million people age 60 and older. All but a tiny percentage of them live in non-institutional settings, as do nearly 57 million people with disabilities. Both populations are growing, and older Americans are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country. By 2020, there will be more than 77 million people over the age of 60."
• "The older population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse as the overall minority population in the U.S. grows and experiences greater longevity. Racial and ethnic minority populations have increased from 6.3 million in 2003 (17.5 percent of the older adult population) to 9.5 million in 2013 (21.2 percent of older adults), and are projected to increase to 21.1 million in 2030 (28.5 percent of older adults)."
It might seem overwhelming. It does not have to be.
It's "something we can all surround as a community," Robertson said. "We can surround these individuals, help them out, maybe through some of the faith-based partnerships, maybe through some federal program dollars, but the solutions are low-cost, high-impact — and people can stay at home."
He didn't say this, so allow me: I'm talking to you, grown children of aging parents and not-there-yet friends of older folks. Look around. Pay attention to people's space and how they use it — or don't anymore because they can't.
Notice conversations already going on around you. Aches, pains, and increased or pending challenges of mobility are already common topics of discussion for about anyone past 50. Join in.
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Source : http://newsok.com/article/5591879/health-equity-includes-universal-design-aging-in-place