The 50-plus demographic is an attractive prospect for residential architects and custom builders. Including both Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers, they’re the largest cohort of the population (and growing) and have the highest household income.
Many in the over 50 demographic can afford to buy, build, or renovate their dream home. But when you sit down with clients to discuss features, how often does the conversation include futureproofing for aging in place?
According to the United States Census Bureau, two-thirds of Americans over age 65 say they have difficulty walking or climbing. Mobility at home can pose a significant challenge, turning that sweeping, spiral, or switch-back staircase—once a beloved architectural feature—into a daily struggle.
Selling the multi-story family home and downsizing to a condo, apartment, or bungalow is an option for some, but it’s often impractical or wrought with heartbreak—especially if the availability of multi-unit or single-story housing means moving away from family, friends, and trusted community. It may also defeat the purpose of aging in place in its purest sense, defined by the United States Centers for Disease Control as "the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably."
Installing a stairlift is an obvious, utilitarian, and often “cheap and cheerful” aging-in-place solution when climbing stairs starts to feel like a Herculean task. But clients coming to you, an architect, to discuss building or renovating their home are likely looking for something more aesthetically pleasing.
Perhaps that’s why residential elevators, once thought to be only attainable by the rich and famous, are inching into the mainstream.
Available in a wide variety of sizes, finishes, and customized options, home elevators run the gamut from ordinary to opulent. There’s also a range of drive technologies to choose from, including hydraulic, traction (also known as machineroomless), pneumatic vacuum, and winding drum.
One thing almost all traditional home elevators have in common? They require the construction of a shaftway to reach each level of the home. And that necessitates careful planning and can significantly limit floorplan flexibility.
Ask your clients if they’re willing to give up the walk-in closet, the powder room, or a big chunk of square footage in the kitchen to accommodate an elevator shaft. You know what the answer will be: “Heck, no!”
Enter a new class of panoramic glass residential elevators that include an integrated hoistway as part of the engineered design of the lift. The integrated hoistway means no shaftway construction, a quicker all-in-one installation with less disruption (especially for a remodel project), and—perhaps most important to design pros—a whole new world of flexibility when it comes to where you can place the elevator in the home’s floorplan.
For example, the newest model in this category, which hit the market earlier this year, is the Savaria Vuelift Mini. Boasting a compact 50-inch diameter footprint, this 500-pound-capacity model takes up 7–10 square feet less room than a traditional residential elevator, allowing it to be situated in the middle an open-concept space, in a corner, adjacent to a wall, attached to a mezzanine, or centered in a spiral staircase.
The addition of the small footprint option brings the Savaria Vuelift family up to six models of winding-drum-powered panoramic elevators with varying capacities, dimensions, and shapes—including round and octagonal—a choice of glass or acrylic material, and even customized frame colors to help designers and homeowners express aesthetic tastes and signature styles.
The 50-plus demographic represents a big opportunity for residential architects. And innovations in the home elevator category mean you have the tools to help them age in place, with grace.
For design drawings, product specifications and more information, visit www.vuelift.com.