Every new home built in England will have to be designed to suit an ageing population, under government plans.
New homes will have 16 key design features under the plans
Ministers want all new homes to include 16 features such as stairs wide enough for stairlifts, downstairs bathrooms, and room for wheelchairs to turn.
Builders have until 2010 to show they are adopting the standards, with the threat of compulsion from 2013 if not.
The Conservatives welcomed recognition of elderly people's needs but said the plan had been "sprung" on the industry.
The plan was welcomed by Help the Aged and Age Concern also welcomed the new standards, saying future housing must meet the needs of older people.
Housing minister Caroline Flint says the idea is to build homes which do not need costly adaptations as owners age.
The government wants to expand the support given to older people "to help them live safely and, where they choose, independently in [their] own homes", she says.
All new social housing built from 2011 will have to be built to the new "lifetime homes" standard, and the hope is that private sector houses will also meet it.
Help the Aged said the plans would "help older people who often want to live in their own homes for as long as possible".
Help The Aged's Mervyn Kohler said the strategy was "enormously important".
"We live in an ageing population and our housing must meet the needs of older people, both now and in the future."
The government is convinced developers will find a good market for age-friendly homes.
But the National Federation of Housebuilders said the plans amounted to "another costly policy".
It says this standard, coupled with a requirement to make new homes more sustainable and energy efficient, could make it impossible to build the thousands of affordable new houses required.
Roger Humber, the federation's strategic policy adviser, said there had been inadequate consultation with the industry.
"We are asking ministers for urgent discussions to try to understand how they think it will work and what the value will be for the majority of homebuyers, who are under 50," he said.
Under its "Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods" plans, the government also wants to work with councils and planners to make entire neighbourhoods suitable for elderly people.
"Age friendly" towns and cities would include features such as better paving and kerbs, improved street lighting, better positioned bus stops and access to toilets and other amenities.
For the Conservatives Grant Shapps, shadow housing minister, welcomed the government's recognition of the needs of the elderly.
"But we are concerned that the Government has sprung these moves on business, telling builders that they must start in little over one month's time, without any apparent consultation with the house building industry," he added.