AARP recently concluded its comprehensive "Livability for All: The 2016 AARP Age-Friendly Community Survey" report, which surveyed residents age 50 and older in 11 metros across the country about the features of their current housing, the importance of community features, and the need gaps between present conditions and preferences. The survey drills down into "eight domains of livability" the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as being key to the quality of life of older adults, and to help cities "prepare for the rapid aging of populations and the increase in urbanization as droves of baby boomers retire in the coming years."

Last week, an article on our sister site BUILDER broke down general segments of the report that established Boomer preferences when it comes to moving (or not moving) in retirement, gauged the livability of their current community for aging, and identified the most influential factors that would sway Boomers to uproot in retirement.

An overwhelming majority of survey respondents would like to stay in their current home as they age, but could be swayed to move if they find a home with accessibility features that would enable them to live independently while aging. Remodelers have an upper hand due to the fact boomers would prefer to age in place, and there are a handful of modifications that homeowners say could keep them in their current home.

Top home modifications needed in order for residents to age in place (average across all markets surveyed):

  1. Bathroom modifications (42% average among all survey respondents)
  2. Installation of medical emergency response systems (32% average among all survey respondents)
  3. Improved lighting (24% average among all survey respondents)
  4. Easier home accessibility (ramps, wider doorways, chairlifts, etc) (22% average among all survey respondents)
  5. Addition to first floor living area (bedroom/bathroom/kitchen) (14% average among all survey respondents)

The heat map below shows how important the modifications above are to residents in each of the 14 markets AARP surveyed. Across the board, bathroom accessibility is the biggest concern among survey respondents, but residents in Brownsville, Texas, (58%), Philadelphia (49%), and San Antonio (47%), report the biggest need for such modifications to age in their own homes. Boomers in Brownsville were also among the top respondents reporting the need to install a medical emergency response system (41%), improved lighting (31%), and easier home access (including ramps, wider doorways, or chairlifts) (36%).

AARP’s findings are in line with the recent findings of the AIA Home Design Trend Survey, which surveyed 600 architectural firms about residential activity during the first quarter of 2015 and found that accessibility features, open floor plans, and one-story living were among the top five in-demand features of potential consumers. In one contrast to the AIA's results, which reported home additions/alterations in the remodeling sector as the most active in the first quarter of 2016, AARP survey respondents reported adding a bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen to the first floor as the least necessary home modification to enable aging in place. Regardless, it’s expected that features in the realm of universal design will continue to be top design trends in the coming years, as droves of boomers get ready for, and enter, retirement.

The survey results reflect the views of 5,978 residents over the age of 50 from a total of 14 metros, but note that three of those metros (Philadelphia, Washington County, and West Sacramento) surveyed residents age 45 and older, thus dipping into the Gen X population.