LIZ WESTON

My husband and I bought what we thought was a starter home 20 years ago. Now we think of it as our “forever” home, where we plan to retire and live out the rest of our days.

We got lucky, because most of the features that make our place good for “aging in place”—the single-story layout, open design, wide doorways—weren’t on our must-have list when we were newlyweds.

We’re not the only people who didn’t think far enough into our future. The vast majority of homebuyers and remodelers don’t consider what it might be like to grow old in their homes, says Richard Duncan, executive director of the Ronald L. Mace Universal Design Institute, a nonprofit in Asheville, North Carolina, that promotes accessible design for housing, public buildings and parks.

“We think aging is what happens to other people,” Duncan says. “Nobody puts away money to save for that good-looking ramp they’ve always wanted.”

CONCERNS FOR EVERYONE

Consider these figures:

•Only about 1 percent of the national housing stock can be considered truly accessible, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, with basic design features such as no-step entry, single-floor living, wide hallways and doorways, electrical controls reachable from a wheelchair and lever-style handles on faucets and doors.

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