By Robyn A. Friedman
City & Shore PRIME
There’s no shortage of new-home developments in South Florida for those 55 and up. In fact, many builders actively court these buyers, enticing them to purchase in “active-adult” communities with spacious homes and lavish clubhouses.
But what happens as baby boomers age? With the cost of senior housing, such as independent and assisted living, on the rise, many active adults hope to remain in their homes for as long as possible. So builders are including features in new homes that will allow residents to age in place.
“We design our homes so that they remain functional to our homeowners even as they age,” says Jill DiDonna, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sunrise-based GL Homes, which has built numerous active-adult communities in Florida under the Valencia brand.
Like many other builders, GL incorporates principles of universal design into its new homes. According to the National Association of Home Builders, universal design is the design of products or environments to be usable by all people without the need for adaptation.
“Universal design is design for everyone, with no limitations for anyone,” says Angela S. Colley, an interior designer with AC Styles Designs in Pembroke Pines and an Aging-In-Place Specialist, certified by the NAHB.
She says that many of her clients want to modify their homes to allow them to remain in place as they age. “They’re comfortable there, and they want to be around family,” she says.
But even though aging homeowners want features that improve accessibility, they don’t want to sacrifice luxury.
“Baby boomers consider themselves young and active, so they don’t want to be reminded of getting older,” says Valerie Dolenga, a spokeswoman for PulteGroup, which is developing Boca Flores, an active-adult community in Boca Raton. “We spend considerable time and research on product innovations that allow us to best use components of universal design without it being overt and that don’t compromise what homeowners want in home design.”
Examples of features incorporated by Pulte into its new homes include raised dishwashers, cooktops with front or side controls, large tub decks for easier access, roll-out shelves in cabinets and low- or zero-entry thresholds in showers and home entrances.
While many buyers of active-adult homes may be making their last house purchase, that doesn’t mean it can’t be the home of their dreams. So, for example, while GL Homes includes raised shower seats and electrical outlets in their homes, as well as lever handles on doors rather than door knobs, homes in the firm’s Valencia Bay community in Boynton Beach also have granite countertops and backsplashes, stainless steel appliances and gourmet kitchens, not to mention access to a 33,000-square-foot clubhouse.