Two things we know about older Americans: Twenty years from now, there will be more of them than ever before, and most of them will want to stay in their own homes as they age.
To meet this demographic challenge, the research arm of the National Assn. of Home Builders has been seeking innovative ideas from the young by launching a design competition for senior-friendly housing.
In the second annual contest held last fall, more than 90 students of architecture, interior design and occupational therapy addressed problems such as narrow doorways, dangerous stairs and inaccessible kitchens and bathrooms.
Winning designs included wide entryways with flush thresholds, handrails disguised as decorative molding, such as chair rails, and spaces with pocket doors to create a room for a caretaker.
Half of the submissions focused on adapting a cluster of existing urban townhouses and the rest on designing a new single-family residence that would enable people to "age in place."
The results were unveiled last month at the NAHB Research Center headquarters in Upper Marlboro, Md.
Some of the best ideas will be incorporated into a model "senior friendly" idea house being built by the center and scheduled to open to the public this summer.
Readers looking for information about aging in place will also find the center's Web site a handy resource: www.nahbrc.org. Just click on "seniors" to find links to related literature, a checklist for simple structural adaptations that could be made to any house and a directory of helpful products.