Baby Boomers have had quit a run and it is far from over. They created civil rights, a sex revolution and aerobic exercise. Their presidents included Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush. Their health improved and they are living longer. They are wealthy. In 2007 the first boomer collected social security. As they enter what used to be known as their retirement years, it is up to them again to define who they are by defining what it means to be an older person.
Will Boomers draw on their lifestyle from the 1970’s, aka the “Me” generation? Will their lives over age 65 be defined by only their needs and wants? Or will they redefine what it means to have lived a full life and to pass on a planet to a succeeding generation that is better than the one they inherited?
There are many ways to step into this responsible time of life. Not so long ago, living past age 65 was itself a blessing, not something that could be counted on. Today, 65 is 55 – no shortage of possibilities. So what responsibilities will Boomers take on? Universal design fulfills on social sustainability. Boomers can take on this responsibility perhaps more easily as it is also serves ones own self interest.
To embrace universal design would be to personally acknowledge that one is aging (yikes – not by the generation that invented the cult of youth). What is physically possible has changed. One had 20/20 vision. Then in the 40’s the eye muscles loose full power and one needs reading specs. By the 50’s one begins to loose low light ability as contrast sensitivity diminishes. By the 70’s you might have not only minimal contrast but also poor focus. You adapted to the changes in eyesight, why not apply that same adaptability throughout the rest of your environment and much as you maintained the ability to see, also maintain the ability to live independently.
To apply universal design in your life is to honor yourself. It is a commitment to think about your future and to build accordingly. Our lives are lived in many homes. As we approach retirement, we tend to plan one more move or renovation. This is the window to move forward with universal design. It is in the planning stages that universal design adds little to the construction, renovation or relocation costs. How much? Typically between 1 and 2%.
In looking at a generation leaving a legacy, universal design ongoingly provides the full and independent lifestyle so cherished and provides everyone else with an environment that is more livable. Mobility is easier for moms with strollers; grandparents can visit their children’s homes, homes can once again be multi-generational, and those with disabilities become less disabled because the environment isn’t designed for able bodies only
For years to come, www.universaldesignresource.com, has much information to assist you in developing your awareness and becoming a consumer fit to serve the person you’ve been caring for, yourself, as well as those around you, your community.