Aging and Accessibility Go Hand-In-Hand

On September 17, 2012, in Canada, Victoria, by Rosalie McLachlin

Baby boomers create demand for universal design

September 23 to 29 is Active Aging Week, and we think that’s something to celebrate. After all, with their growing personal interest in accessibility, Canada’s aging boomers are smoothing the path for people living with disabilities.

Here’s an interesting coincidence: in 2006 Statistics Canada found that almost 14 percent of the population—about 5 million baby boomers—was 65 years or older. In that same year, about 14 percent of the population self-identified as disabled.

According to a story about aging baby boomers in the National Post, as people born between 1946 and 1965 enter their senior years, some “profound and controversial” issues are coming to light regarding their increasing health needs.

Our cities needs “retrofitting”

“We really didn’t design cities for the elderly,” says Elaine Gallagher, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging. “We designed them for able-bodied people, 35-year-old engineers who bicycle to work. A good deal of retrofitting is going to be needed.”

And that’s good news if you’re not able-bodied, or if you feel handicapped—by bad design.

Universal design, on the other hand, “makes things more accessible, safer, and convenient for everyone.” Says the Centre for Inclusive Design and Accessibility, “…it is a philosophy that developed in response to the diversity of human populations, their abilities and their needs.”

A good place to start is right at home

For example, about 10 million existing homes will need renovations to suit the increasing number of baby boomers who will want a more accessible, more fashion-forward place to live.

Writes Misty Harris of Postmedia News, “…a shift toward universal design means such renovations no longer require the clinical, bolt-on solutions of the past but rather allow sleek, sexy additions that look more Architectural Digest than Prevention.”

“Not many baby boomers want to have an ugly stainless steel grab-bar in the beautiful, $30,000 bathroom they’ve just redone,” agrees Colin Milner, of the International Council on Active Aging. And as a representative from Kohler Canada puts it, “Baby boomers know what’s possible so they tend to demand more.”

It’s challenging to “demand more” if you are struggling with a disability, so it’s nice to know there’s a big, loud, active population of boomers out there doing some of the heavy lifting for you.

If you have been denied a disability claim, get a second opinion. For a free lawyer referral, call toll-free at 1-855-843-9729.

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