(SD Union Tribune Weekend Edition, Home and Garden Section)

What is “Age Friendly Livable San Diego”?  While people may have different interpretations of this phrase, Laurence Weinstein draws on AARP’s definition, which includes “working toward providing affordable and diversified housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options which facilitate personal independence, and the engagement of citizens in civic and social life.”

As founder and president of Shared Solutions America, a national nonprofit organization and resource center created in 2000, Weinstein spends much of his time educating both consumers and professionals on how to create practical as well as beautiful living environments that are user-friendly, energy-smart, safe, sustainable, and affordable.

The goal of the series "Livable San Diego", will provide helpful information about how to make life more comfortable and livable, by featuring practical improvements to your home, health and overall well being.

Each week the series also was built on a glossary of terms as they relate to Livable San Diego.

This information, along with stories from the series, is available online at: livablesandiego.com.

Since Weinstein, a longtime resident of Alpine, played an integral part in helping shape these stories, we sat down with him to discuss his background, his hopes for a Livable San Diego and what to look forward to in the series.

Q: How did you get into this work?

For over 35 years, I owned a successful product and architectural design/build business. Living with disabilities myself, I often incorporated certain design features and details that minimized barriers to independent living. I saw how many of my contemporaries were unaware how certain design changes and features could greatly improve people's lives, and without them, how daily living tasks and activities became difficult and at times dangerous.
I founded Shared Solutions America to help maximize independent, enjoyable and safe living for people of all ages. I just turned 80, and I am even more passionately committed to this than ever.

Q: Why do we need to be concerned as a community about “all-age friendly” housing?

Did you know that every day, 10,000 Americans reach the age of 65, a rate expected to continue through 2030? More than 350,000 San Diegans are 65 and older. There are currently over 60 million people of all ages with some form of permanent disability, and many millions more who incur an unexpected injury or illness resulting in a temporary disability.
Personal happiness and independence is deeply affected by our level of ability to successfully perform daily living tasks and activities, where we live, work and play.

Q: People use terms such as universal design or aging-in-place design. What do they mean?

I prefer to call it “smart livable homes design.” The other terms don’t easily convey what we’re talking about, which relate to incorporating special features and details, that simplify life for everyone by making homes more usable by most people — regardless of their age, size or level of abilities — at all stages of life.
That could be a mom with her hands full of groceries, or pushing a stroller into her house, a disabled veteran home to recuperate, a child in a wheelchair, or a retiree who uses a walker.  When we encounter barriers to independence and safety in our homes, we’re not the problem — our homes are, and they need to be made more user-friendly and livable.

Q: Why do I need to bother learning about this? Why can't I just hire an architect and/or contractor to take care of all these issues?

The problem is, many of those "experts" don't really know much about the ergonomic changes associated with aging, and with disabilities.
That's why we want to educate people — to put them in the "driver's seat". You know your needs and the needs of your loved ones. You just need to learn how to make those “special Universal Design changes”...to make it all happen.