I was running errands with a friend the other day, when she spotted a new development. “Oh, a gated community,” she said. “In Columbia! I wonder what that is?”
So we explored.
Off Snowden River Parkway, near the billions-o-box stores shopping center, was a 55+ community. As “Life” would have it, literally, I was getting out of her car to see the models when the Baltimore Examiner article titled Age-restricted housing options on the rise popped into my radar of vision.
The article basically said this type of 55+ housing is deleterious to a community and an economy. At least that’s my short-hand on it. But, of course, someone will always claim we need “senior housing.”
I agree. We need spaces and places for our seniors — many of whom still live in their original single family homes — to downsize. It’s a good thing to have the full gamut of ages in a community and it’s healthier for seniors, physically and emotionally, to “age in place.”
However, there ain’t nothin’ about these new homes that was “senior” oriented. A 2400 sq. ft. villa-style, amenity-rich home with cathedral ceilings, huge open spaces, steep steps inside the house, steps from the garage into the home, and steps at the front of the home is not “senior friendly.” It’s “I’m a well-to-do-and-older-than-you-friendly,” (starting around $460,000) but it’s hardly “senior-friendly housing.”
I had genuinely walked in expecting to find universal design: bathrooms with appropriate tub heights for easier (and safer) entries, grab bars in the bathrooms, wide (wheelchair accessible, if required) doorways, lever-type handles rather than knobs that have to be turned, higher toilet seats and strong handles next to the toilets to help with sitting and rising from the seats. Maybe even ramped front entrances.
Nada. The sales associate didn’t even know what I meant by the term “universal design” and wasn’t sure what I meant when I asked about “senior-friendly” amenities available to make a home more accessible.
Something’s up. And it’s certainly not the stock of high-quality “senior” housing.
Perhaps I’ll explore the condos for sale in the same community. But my sense is they probably won’t have any more universal design to them than the villas on offer. If anyone knows, pipe up.
It just strikes me that the housing mix and the types of permits given for housing could use more thinking and big-picture planning. We do need senior housing, no doubt about it. The kind that seniors can move into, and stay in, and age in place.
I’m just wondering what happened to all the Vietnam era protesters, the people who fought for civil rights, and the women’s movement. Did they forget what was important to them when they were young? Have they forgotten what they so proudly stood for in their youth? For integrated communities. For people of all races, ethnicities, religions (and now ages) living together?
Isn’t that why they moved to Columbia in the first place? To make a statement, to take a stand, for living in a diverse community?
I know that’s why my parents moved here.
And it was a real choice. It had deep impact on me … on my whole family. It was part and parcel of who I was: a child living in an intentional community where people came together to be more, together.
I want this, still.