Multiple AARP studies have shown that more than 85% of persons over 55 years of age would prefer to remain in their own homes and communities as they age. The Rogue Valley Council of Government’s Lifelong Housing Project has been developed in collaboration with AARP Oregon to make that desire a reality for as many people as possible. The overarching goal of Lifelong Housing Project is widespread incorporation of accessible/adaptable features into existing and new homes across the Rogue Valley and eventually throughout Oregon and the nation. The result will be more individuals maintaining their independence and thus delaying–or reducing– their reliance on care facilities.
The Lifelong Housing Project is comprised of two activities:
- a voluntary evaluation and certification process for rating the accessibility and/or adaptability of homes. People looking for those features will be able to locate appropriate homes and be confident about that certain standards have been met.
- A community education component to raise awareness in the minds of consumers and professionals, alike, of the desirability of including Lifelong Housing features in all newly constructed and remodeled homes.
The project was originally designed to help meet the growing market demand for accessible housing in Southern Oregon and to enable older adults and people with disabilities to age in place safely and independently. Universal Design makes living easier for all family members whether or not they have disabilities, so Lifelong Housing features are appropriate in all housing.
The Lifelong Housing Certification Project is the first of its kind in Oregon. It was developed by a team including representatives from Rogue Valley Council of Governments, AARP Oregon, Age-Friendly Innovators, a non-profit dedicated to falls prevention, and HASL, the local Center for Independent Living. Other team members were local home builders, home inspectors, a Realtor, a rental owner, an appraiser, and, of course, seniors and consumers with disabilities. The Home Builders association of Jackson County endorsed the project. The local Realtors Association has included a box on its Multiple Listing Services form in order to connect potential sellers with buyers who are planning to “age in place.” As of mid-2021, 109 new homes been built to the Lifelong Housing Certification standards. Two remodeled homes have been certified. The local Housing Authority has constructed and apartment building with 50 new affordable units—all accessible at Lifelong Housing Certification Level 1 and 10 of them are fully accessible (Level 2).
Other areas in Oregon are developing similar programs. A group of representatives from several other counties has been formed to encourage the program’s growth across the state and across the nation when the time comes.
A national organization that is standardizing terminology for Multiple Listing Services–Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO)–has adopted RVCOG’s Lifelong Housing Certification terminology to describe accessible features.
Education and outreach activities of the project–beyond the inspection and certification process—are geared to consumers, family members and caregivers as well as to the professionals who serve them, such as builders, Realtors, physical and occupational therapists, and home health workers. Once a critical level of community awareness is attained, early indications suggest the market will fully embrace Lifelong Housing. In ten years, it is predicted that Lifelong Housing features will be the conventional construction mode in the Rogue Valley and throughout Oregon.
- Lifelong Housing Certification Standard
- Lifelong Housing Certified Homes