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December 29, 2013

What you need to know about building a house for all ages

NORMAN — I have taken the classes required to become a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. What does that do for me, and what does it mean?

I have come at this from just living in the reality of getting older. This certificate now means I can formally promote myself professionally as a specialist who can help people understand how their built environment will affect their freedom in living independently day to day.

As an architect, I have been designing with accessibility standards in mind and using the Americans with Disability Act, also known as the Attorney’s Full Employment Act of 1990, since it became law. I had no choice if I wanted to stay licensed in the state of Oklahoma.

Being a design professional meant understanding the ramification of the law and integrating how it was interpreted into building design for the health, safety and welfare of the building users.

I wrote the article that started me moving down the road of writing for The Transcript about aging in place and design last summer after my back surgery and before my knee surgery.

The article focused philosophically on this aging process and the connected physical realities that come with it, and how this process has influenced my design process, especially in designing homes. I have been designing homes since 1975. That is almost 40 years.

Back when I started as a student intern of 20 years young, designing homes with two stories was pretty common, and many of those homes had all the bedrooms on the second floor. Many had only small baths on the first floor. None were designed around the idea of growing old and staying in them as long as possible or designing those with features that would make it easy to convert them to places where disabilities would not keep anyone from moving to a nursing home.

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