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Making a house a lifelong home Goldstein Museum exhibit offers insights for adapting your home

As boomers age, the size and impact of this generation will challenge America’s resources, communities, and the concepts of what it means to be an older person. A high percentage of individuals in this generation fully expect to live independently for many years, as documented in surveys conducted by AARP and other major organizations.

How does this desire for independence match the characteristics of the homes in which boomers expect to live? The Goldstein Museum of Design on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota is exploring this issue in the exhibition, "Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future." The exhibit features Jim and Maria, a fictional couple in their mid 60s, who want to refurbish their 1960s home so they can continue to enjoy their active, engaged lifestyle into their 80s. The exhibit addresses questions about home modifications that can make it easier for people to age in place. Dr. Marilyn Bruin, Associate Professor of Housing Studies, College of Design, and Jody Rhia, graduate student in Housing Studies, are curators of the exhibit.

The exhibition portrays practical, attractive and affordable examples of design and furnishings that accommodate changes that commonly accompany aging. It highlights two key areas to consider in adapting a home.

  • Entrances. No-step entrances benefit users of all ages and capabilities.
  • Bathrooms.  A walk-in shower with an adjustable showerhead and adjustable bench, a “comfort height” toilet, and reinforced walls for mounting grab bars are commonly needed adjustments.

Visitors will have opportunities to try out adaptations such as a powered lift-assist chair in the living room and a fully adjustable chair at an ergonomically designed desk. The kitchen has easy-to-handle utensils; lowered counters for comfortable seated use; and an easy access drawer-style microwave. Wall colors and lighting illustrate changes an homeowner can make to accommodate changing vision.

The Smart House exhibit will be open exclusively to the Vital Aging Network for its forum on Monday, March 14 from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Learn more about the upcoming forum.

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