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With aging population, a gap in home design

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With aging population, a gap in home design

Suzanne and Dan Swisher started looking for a new house a few years ago. With their children grown, they were ready to downsize to a place where they could live for the rest of their lives.

But Suzanne had to visit most of the homes and models on her own. Dan, whose spinal cord was injured in an accident almost 20 years ago and is now in a wheelchair, waited in the car, held back by steps at the door. Even some houses in communities for people over the age of 55 had stairs, Suzanne recalled.

“It was impossible,” she said. “Building a custom home turned out to be our only option, unless we would have bought something older and completely rehabbed it.”

Fewer than 4 percent of U.S. homes have features that ease visits by a person with a wheelchair — an entry without stairs, wider hallways and doors, and a first-floor bathroom, according to a report issued this month by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.