SDSU Extension and North Dakota State University Extension recently teamed up to conduct the Dakotas Housing Study, which showed that housing appropriate for successful aging in place is largely absent in both states. Over 600 people across North Dakota and South Dakota participated in the study.
“The purpose of this project was to explore how residents think about housing and aging in place,” said Leacey Brown, SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist. “What this tells us is that many older adults who plan to remain in their homes may have a difficult time accomplishing their goals.”
Strategies to build homes that are suitable for aging in place are known, but implementation has been sparse. Lack of consumer demand is a common reason for aging in place ready homes not being built. The results of this study suggest consumers may have greater interest than housing industry professionals realize.
“I think it would be an important step for all new houses being built to follow a code to help accommodate individuals with disabilities. Even though I don’t have an immediate family member with a disability, I’m sure I will at some point,” one participant stated.
Design strategies, such as universal design, that can create aging in place ready homes without the stigma or limitations of accessibility, are largely unknown to most residents.
“What sets universal design apart from accessibility is that it is meant to meet the needs of people taller than average, shorter than average and with and without disabilities. For example, a countertop lowered for a wheelchair user would not be comfortable for other members of the household,” said Brown. Most study participants were unfamiliar with universal design.
“We hope results of this report will help to expand the discussion on housing in South Dakota,” said Brown.
The report includes the results of the research project and recommendations for individuals, families and community leaders on how to increase the availability of homes in South Dakota that allow older South Dakotans to accomplish their goals.