Western Carolina University

WCU, PARDEE TO EXAMINE                                                                                                                          

If you ask adults over the age of 65 how they want to live as they age, most will say they want to remain in their homes.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that approximately 70 percent of seniors do spend the rest of their lives in the place where they celebrated their 65th birthday. And, as the aging demography of baby boomers move into the golden years, 89 percent are planning to remain in their homes throughout their lives.

A Western Carolina University professor who specializes in interior design strategies for the aging population is not surprised by this trend, often called “aging in place.”

“The idea of ‘aging in place' encompasses an effort to maintain the health and well-being of older adults while enabling them to remain at home and engaged in their communities,” said Candace Roberts, assistant professor of interior design at WCU. “It's an increasingly more common vision for aging adults.” 

Roberts, a certified aging in place specialist, will share her knowledge about maintaining independence throughout the lifespan through proper arrangement of the home environment in an upcoming workshop in the Great Life Series titled “Aging in Place, Could It Work for You?” The morning program, sponsored by WCU and Pardee Hospital, will be held at Pardee Health Education Center at the Blue Ridge Mall in Hendersonville from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25.

Another Western faculty member, assistant professor of health sciences Irene Mueller, is planning ahead as she contemplates retirement. Mueller has recently assisted her mother in transitioning from her home in Franklin to a retirement community in Florida. During this transition, while her mother lived with her in Sylva, Mueller became acutely aware that there were obstacles in her home to “aging in place.”

She approached Roberts and her interior design class to explore how they might re-design the kitchen and bathroom using the principles of universal design. A visit to Mueller's home provided Roberts' students a means of applying to a real-life situation what they have learned in class about “aging in place” and home adaptation.

Roberts will explain the elements of universal design and home adaptation in the upcoming Great Life workshop along with other home-related decision making. During the program, she will encourage older adults to consider one-story living with plenty of lighting inside and outside of the home. “Having at least one entry to the house without steps increases the likelihood that older adults can age in place, living more safely if there is ever a period of infirmity,” she said.

Design should be more open with fewer walls, and doors and hallways should be 32 to 36 inches wide.  “It is good to have one bedroom and a bath on the first floor, too,” Roberts said. The use of varying counter heights in the kitchen so that a person can sit while making food preparations is recommended, as are pull-out drawers and plenty of storage within reach from a seated position.

“Applying the principles of universal design when a home is constructed costs little more to build and enhances the resale value,” Roberts said. “For homes already built, when we improve accessibility the costs, compared to the expense of nursing home or assisted living care fees, can be recouped easily when older adults consider the increased time they can live independently if the home is suitably designed.”

In addition to Western and Pardee Hospital, First Citizens Bank and Spring Arbor and Spring Arbor West Residential Assisted Living Communities also are sponsoring the Great Life Series.

Registration is open to adults of all ages and is available at the Pardee Health Education Center at the Blue Ridge Mall or by mail to Western Carolina Partnership for Aging and Education, 800 N. Justice St., Hendersonville, N.C., 28791. Cost is $22 per person, and checks should be made to Western Carolina University . 

For more information, contact Western's regional director of education outreach, Marcia Caserio , at (828) 693-3497 or e-mail mcaserio@wcu.edu .

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Last modified: Thursday, April 20, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Western Carolina University