Houseplans Blog

The Age-Appropriate Home

The Age-Appropriate Home
This plan was designed with aging in place.
Builders design model homes for a demographic cohort; for example: singles, young families, wealthy move-up buyers. That penchant becomes transparent in homes designed for mature buyers, as I was reminded recently walking a series of homes in an “active adult” community, Verrado, located about 30 minutes west of Phoenix. Builders there do a great job highlighting design touches that would flip the switch of aging baby boomers looking to take an early position on retirement.

But the experience reminded me that the search for an age-appropriate home doesn’t have to take you to a golf-course community in the desert. With careful thought given to how you want to live now and in the future, you could build the perfect home from a house plan almost anywhere (like one story Plan 924-4, shown at the top of this post). The upside to that approach is that you wouldn’t have to stray far from your children and grandchildren. The experience also reminded me of design’s role in enabling a new lifestyle at home. That’s where builders take an educated guess. They assume that mature buyers would want to party more often, take more walks, and need a guest bedroom or suite. But that’s up to you to decide. Here are some issues likely to inform the lifestyle you may want to lead and the home you may want to build.

You’ll spend more time with your spouse
For many couples, of course, that’s the goal of retirement; they want to spend more time together. But after spending so much time living independent work lives, couples may value time alone as well. The question is what you and your spouse like to do most together. If it’s to linger of breakfast in the morning, drinking coffee

and doing the crossword puzzle, a nook with morning sunlight may be idea (as in Plan 454-11, above).. Maybe you like to watch TV, read, or work in the garden as a couple. If you like to cook together, you may

want a second prep area in the kitchen that allows two cooks to work comfortably (as shown here in Plan 479-11, with a sink by the window and one in the island). You may not need an eat-in island that seats six, unless you expect prized visits from grandchildren.

You’ll spend more time at home
This may seem obvious, but it has repercussions for the design of your home. You may want to consider the things you’ll be doing there. Many people find more time for hobbies as they age, hobbies that may require specialized workspace like a craft room, garden shed, a garage big enough to work on cars, or a home office. Each person may need a place to escape, to engage in personal pursuits, especially if one partner plans to continue working. Many homes at Verrado featured offices close to

the front door, like this one, that could be used as guest bedrooms. But you may need to carve out two places to work.

You’ll have more time to entertain
That appealing activity received considerable attention at Verrado. Each builder showed at least one model that could be described as a “great party home.” Thirty years ago that seemed like the sole focus of retirement honey traps. You’d see desert homes with big great rooms with lots of circulation space, a bar in the corner, and glass doors that opened to a back patio. These days a kitchen with plenty of circulation space must be a big part of the equation since that’s where parties seem to start. Having a dining room table for

family feasts may be important, too, especially if you expect the family to descend on your house for holiday dinners (Plan 928-9 has both an island and a dining area). Even if it doesn’t happen that often, it may still be important to you.

You’ll want your children and grandkids to visit
This was one of the most memorable experiences of my childhood. My brothers and I used to take turns spending the weekend with our grandmother. I’ve toured plenty of luxury homes with guest bedrooms that could sleep a small army of grandchildren. But maybe all you need to create a special sleepover experience is a windowed alcove with a mattress, a murphy bed that folds down in a home office, or a daybed in the corner of a library. Many builders these days market much bigger strokes – separate wings that could house your son or daughter’s family during a transition. At Verrado, Lennar showed a “home within a home,” with a self-contained suite complete with a kitchen and laundry within the main home, as shown below.

You’ll have more time to spend outdoors
Many people look forward to spending more time outdoors in retirement. This was a big emphasis in the homes at Verrado; many homes looked out on a golf course and mountains. The bigger homes featured back porches where you could do nearly everything outside that you could inside – cook and eat a meal, grab a drink, relax with friends around a fire, or jump in a tub (see Plan 901-120, below). And in most

cases, these outdoor rooms connected to interior spaces via large glass door systems that folded back into the wall. What a luxury to be able to spend more time outdoors rather than cooped up in an office!

You may not want to do much work on your home
Some people enjoy refinishing the deck, building stairs, or repainting the house in their free time. But many older buyers are more intent on using free time to play golf, travel, entertain, or spend quality time together. Many older buyers settle for a more modest home than they could afford then spend the difference on better appliances, windows, and insulation. That’s a good way to keep a lid on your utility bills down the road, when you may be less able to afford them.

Your physical and mental abilities are likely to decline
This is true of everyone once they reach a certain age, of course. But it’s a big issue for people in their late 50s and beyond. Familiarize yourself with the tenets of universal design. Wide hallways and doorways, and a least one threshold-free entry, would be a good starting point. Most empty-nester homes have first-floor

master bedrooms that obviate stair climbing (as shown in Plan 901-128, above); others reserve space behind the walls for an elevator should one be required. A threshold-free shower and a toilet with plenty of clearance may not matter to you now. But it could prove a godsend in the future.  

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