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Making Room: Housing for a Changing America

Evolved Spaces for a Changing Population

Making Room: Housing for a Changing America

Making Room: Housing for a Changing America is presented with Resource Furniture and Clei

We’ve all heard the term “aging in place.” But what exactly does it mean? What makes a place suitable to grow old in? What does a home need to be in order to accommodate a young family and still be comfortable years later, when the nest is empty?

Making Room: Housing for a Changing America, an exhibition on view at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., hopes to answer these questions. Funded in part by AARP Foundation, Making Room digs into the latest advances in home design and showcases how architects, policymakers, developers, planners and the general public can use design to create spaces that adapt as their owners age.

By 2035, one in five people in America will be 65 or older, and one in three households will be headed by someone 65 or older. Today, more than 19 million older adults live in housing that doesn’t provide them the best opportunity to live independently, and only about 1 percent of existing housing is equipped to meet their needs.

Housing is at the heart of well-being, and creating access to livable, healthy and affordable housing is central to AARP Foundation’s mission. Unfortunately, America’s current housing stock doesn’t work for our aging population. As demographics continue to shift, older adults will need new kinds of housing that can support them even as their physical or cognitive abilities decline.

Enter Making Room, a rallying cry for a wider menu of housing options.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is the “Open House,” an interactive, 1,000-square-foot living space installed right in the exhibition gallery. Visitors can walk through the stylish, convertible dwelling and see how it can be adapted to suit three different “new” living arrangements: roommates requiring their own spaces, a multigenerational extended family and a retired couple aging in place.

Ease and convenience for aging residents are considered throughout the Open House. There’s a telescoping kitchen island with an integrated induction range to allow those with mobility issues to cook in comfort. The dishwasher opens with a knock, and the kitchen’s fixtures, cabinetry and appliances have all been enhanced for people who may have a limited range of motion. In the bathroom, a shower enclosure folds away to make room for a walker or wheelchair. The largest bedroom can even be converted into a self-contained studio apartment, either for added income for those beyond retirement age or as an option for live-in assistance.

The exhibition also highlights Re-defining Home: Home Today, Home Tomorrow, a home design challenge partially sponsored by AARP Foundation in 2016. The competition challenged architects and designers to show how an existing home could be redesigned to make it accessible and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities. IBI Group/Gruzen Samton created the winning design, which was incorporated into a 1,400-square-foot ranch house in suburban Memphis, Tenn. The updated home has wide doorways, movable walls, no-step entries, a curbless shower and raised flower beds, among other adaptations. The title to the house was then transferred to Walter Moody, who was chosen from a pool of eligible military veterans. Moody now lives in the new house with his mother, who uses a wheelchair and a walker — a welcome change from the walk-up apartment he was living in before. Dan Soliman, Director Housing Impact at AARP Foundation, will give a talk about the competition on Jan. 25, 2018, at the National Building Museum.

At AARP Foundation, we know that the healthiest communities are inclusive of all members, including older adults. Making Room introduces visitors to the future of housing — a future in which our seniors can age in place safely without having to sacrifice the comforts of home.

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