The Norman Transcript

March 16, 2014

Growing older in an age-friendly neighborhood

By Dave Boeck
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A continuation of the discussion I want to have on designing and building age-friendly houses and neighborhoods came a while back at a welcome party for the new young couple that bought our house and are expecting their first child in March.

They bought the house because it reminded the wife of the home she grew up in and all the pleasant memories that came with those experiences.

The welcome party was at our neighbor’s house. They have lived on the street for 30 years in two different houses on the block. Others attending had been neighborhood residents in the neighborhood from 20 to 40 years, which is basically from the start of the neighborhood.

Everyone had such great stories of the experiences living on our street that included all the other people who had lived there and even died there. The discussion included stories of all the children who had grown up on the street, including ours, since we moved into the original house when the kids were 5, 11 and 13. The stories moved on to them returning with grandkids to see their parents and see the old neighborhoods.

It included my story of seeing these five “old guys” walking down the street, pointing at this house and that and obviously having a good time in doing so. When I stopped to ask them what they were doing, they responded that they just came back to Norman to see the old neighborhood and were remembering all that had gone on as kids and pointing out which houses they had grown up in.

The standing joke during this party was that this new couple, who were now living in the neighborhood, would stay for a long time. Just like everyone else, they would never leave. I think it made them uncomfortable, even though they were laughing along with the rest of us old folks. It was a great conversation, and it emphasized how important a neighborhood and the relationships that can be made while living there can make for a healthy life.

Another thing that came out of this fun conversation was that some of the best houses on the street were houses that were built for handicapped people. What made them great houses to live in was the fact that they were easy to live in. They were supportive of aging.

A few questions came out of this neighborhood party and from conversations I have had with builders in talking about designing and building age-friendly houses.

Is a builder going out on a limb by changing the floor plans they have used forever because they sold when he changes those plans to be more age friendly? Do accessible and age-friendly homes cost more to build? Do they sell for more money than traditional homes that aren’t accessible? Is their resale value higher than traditional homes that aren’t accessible?

This is where I throw the conversation open to all of Norman residents. I would like to hear your answers to these important questions. I would like to hear other stories of aging in other neighborhoods and how the houses and the neighborhoods have helped or hindered aging in place.

We also need to hear from Realtors who would be able to get the data on some of these questions on home values and their connection or possible connection to the design of the house and how supportive they are to accessibility and aging in place.

Architect Dave Boeck can be reached at dlb@ou.edu.

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