Glossary of Terms

Aging-in-Place is the ability to continue to live in one’s home safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.  It means living in a familiar environment, and being able to participate in family and other community activities.  It means the reassurance of being able to call a house a “home” for a lifetime.

A person’s capability to Age-in-Place can be extended through the incorporation of home modifications utilizing universal design principles, home health and telecare, and assistive technologies.

More and more people are choosing to stay at home rather than moving to institutional settings.  In recent AARP and AMAC studies, 89% of seniors said they prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible.  Furthermore, the MetLife Mature Marketing Institute found that 91% of pre-retirees aged 50 to 65 want to live in their own homes in retirement.  Of that group, about half want to stay in their current homes and the remainder want to move into new homes.

Thinking ahead about Aging-in-Place is important for people of all ages.  It’s for responsible people who want to live a life of dignity and independence and who do not want to be a burden for their children.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed July 26, 1990 and became effective on January 26, 1992. The ADA is landmark federal legislation that opens up services and employment opportunities to the 43 million Americans with disabilities.  The law is comprised of five titles that prohibit discrimination against disabled persons within the United States.

Title I prohibits employers, including cities and towns, from discriminating against qualified job applicants and workers who are or who become disabled. The law covers all aspects of employment including the application process and hiring, training, compensation, advancement, and any other employment term, condition, or privilege.

Title II prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against disabled persons in their programs and activities. Title II also sets forth the applicable structural accessibility requirements for public entities.

Title III prohibits private enterprises who provide public accommodations and services (e.g., hotels, restaurants, and transit systems) from denying goods, services and programs to people based on their disabilities. Title III also sets forth the applicable structural accessibility requirements for private entities.

Title IV makes available telecommunications devices and services for the hearing and speech impaired. These regulations spell out certain mandatory minimum standards telephone companies must maintain to be in compliance with the ADA.

Title V includes some miscellaneous provisions that relate to the construction and application of the ADA, including alternative dispute resolution.

While the ADA does not specifically pertain to private homes, there are many standards and products that have arisen as a result of the ADA that are desirable for use in homes.

The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation program teaches the technical, business management, and customer service skills essential to perform aging-in-place home modifications. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers Council, in collaboration with the AARP, NAHB Research Center, and NAHB Seniors Housing Council, developed this program to provide comprehensive, practical, market-specific information about working with older and maturing adults to remodel their homes for aging-in-place.

In many cases, a significant barrier for people to comfortably and safely age-in-place is the physical home environment.  The home may no longer be accessible or safe.  Improvements can be made through home modification to eliminate this issue.

Home modification refers to converting or adapting the environment in order to make performing tasks easier, reduce accidents, and support independent living. Home modifications range from low-cost repairs to more expensive adaptations.

Modification examples include removing hazards (e.g., clutter, throw rugs), adding special features or assistive devices (e.g. grab bars ramps), moving furnishings, changing where activities occur (e.g. sleeping on the first floor instead of the second floor) and renovations (e.g., installing a roll-in shower or reconfiguring a room or rooms to better accommodate one’s needs).  Modifying the home may also require repairs such as improved wiring to eliminate the need for dangerous extension cords or fixing worn out stairs.

Why do senior citizens and people with disabilities need home modifications?  Home modifications can promote independence, enhance comfort, increase safety, prevent injuries, and facilitate ongoing access to community activities and services.

When considering independence and safety, home owners should also understand the significant issue of falls and accidents in the home.  Falls are the leading cause of injury hospitalizations and deaths for the senior population.  Research by the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that home modification and repair can prevent one-third of home accidents.

Independent Living is a philosophy and a movement of people with disabilities who work for self-determination, equal opportunities and self-respect. With this movement, people with disabilities demand the same choices and control in their every-day lives that non-disabled people take for granted.

In the context of institutional eldercare, Independent Living is seen as a step in the continuum of care, with assisted living being the next step.

Universal Design refers to a broad-spectrum solution that produces buildings, products and environments that are usable and effective for everyone.  It emerged from “barrier-free” or “accessible design” and “assistive technology” and recognizes the importance of how things look.

A home that is universally designed is a home with features that increase the usability of the home by people of all ages, sizes and abilities (including individuals in wheelchairs or walkers) and enhances the ability of all residents to live independently in the home as long as possible.  It doesn’t matter if you are a family with young children, an individual with permanent or temporary disability, or an older adult who wants to remain independent at home. As the word “universal” implies, this design fits every lifestyle.

Universal Design can be utilized in new construction and existing homes can be modified or retrofitted. Here are a few examples of Universal Design:

  • Wider doorways (convenient for a wheelchair, walker or a stroller)
  • Wider hallways
  • Lever door handles not knobs (accessible for people with arthritis or other conditions that affect dexterity)
  • Higher electrical outlets (don’t have to bend as much)
  • Rocker switches not toggle switches (“Toggle” the right term?)
  • Lower light switches (accessible for a wheelchair or a 4-year old)
  • Zero step entry
  • Zero threshold shower
  • Multi-height kitchen counters with areas where someone can use a chair (for a wheelchair or someone with a bad back who finds it easier to work while seated.)
  • Single lever faucets
  • C shaped cabinet hardware

People of all ages and abilities desire a home that is beautiful and functional while maintaining a high resale value. This can be achieved with Universal Design.

  • HBA Greater Dallas
  • Engery Star
  • Certified Aging In-Place Specialist
  • National Association of Home Builders Member
  • Enviromental Protection Agency - Lead Safe Certified Firm
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