Every day in the United States, 10,000 people turn 65. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University projects that by 2035, one out of every three American households will be headed by someone age 65 or older.
Our homes are one of our most important assets, and one that most retirees are slow to give up. According to a 2014 study conducted by AARP, 85 percent of people age 50 and older say they would rather stay in their current home than move elsewhere. They want access to nearby transportation, groceries and green spaces, and the ability to easily connect with community members.
Cities, companies and families around the world are working hard to determine how to help older people achieve these goals. The medical industry is experimenting with ways to help seniors live more comfortably and safely in their homes, such as improving access to at-home nurse intervention and handyman services. The tech industry has unveiled numerous devices to help people avoid or delay emergency room visits and nursing homes. And cities are improving access to healthcare, welcoming driverless cars, and investing in community centers, gardens and other initiatives to make them successful cities for aging people.
At Green Hammer, we receive calls from people almost weekly who want homes that allow them to stay put as they age while helping them live to their values (environmental, social, economic and others). They want healthy indoor air quality, plenty of natural lighting, the ability to produce more clean energy than they consume, and the power to contribute to a vibrant community. In 2015, we helped a group of retirees make this dream a reality when we designed and built Ankeny Row, a Zero Net Energy community in southeast Portland consisting of five three-bedroom townhomes and one two-bedroom apartment above a common shared space.
Ankeny Row integrates Universal Design elements that allow the homes to adapt to the owners’ changing needs. All townhomes allow for single-floor living, where the master bedroom, bathroom and kitchen are all on the first floor. The homes have wide halls and doorways and zero-step entrances to accommodate wheelchairs. The common courtyard is ADA-accessible.
Ankeny Row provides residents reassurance that they won’t become isolated, a condition that impacts 17 percent of adults age 65 and older and 51 percent of adults age 75 and older, according to AARP. Ankeny Row’s common courtyard, living room and kitchen allow residents to entertain guests and gather for activities. The homes are integrated into a vibrant urban neighborhood. They are within blocks of public transportation, a grocery store, restaurants, a movie theater and expansive park.
Aside from these important social attributes that improve residents’ quality of life, Ankeny Row significantly reduces residents’ carbon footprint. Built to the Passive House standard, Ankeny Row’s super-insulated, airtight building envelope, triple-paned windows and doors, and heat recovery ventilation system reduce heating energy demand by approximately 90 percent over conventional construction. A small rooftop solar photovoltaic system in 2016 – the first year of occupancy – produced 18 percent more electricity than the community of homes consumed. This allowed the residents to provide an excess of carbon-free energy to the grid.
Ankeny Row is a huge success story, but just one of many single-family and community-wide multi-family residential projects completed or underway at Green Hammer. The Oaks Net Zero community at Rose Villa is a first-of-its kind offering in senior housing in Portland. It includes nine cottages designed to produce as much, or possibly more energy than they consume. These three triplexes incorporate Universal Design, age-in-place elements. They are clustered around a common courtyard that encourages community interaction. The homes are designed to maximize day lighting and significantly reduce operating costs through Passive House construction.
It’s never too early to start planning for the future you want. Whether you are considering a remodel that would allow you to stay in your home as you age, or envision living in a community with other like-minded adults, Green Hammer brings more than a decade of experience helping people design and build healthy and inspiring buildings. Learn more at www.greenhammer.com.