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Prepare Your Home for Universal Design

October 12, 2017

An overwhelming majority of aging adults want to remain in their home for as long as possible. Many are unable to do so because their environment no longer works for them. Renovations are often required to incorporate a person's physical and mental limitations, and how these might change over time. Universal Design emphasizes design that is attractive and functional for a broad range of individuals.

Builders must follow federal laws to ensure people with disabilities are protected from discrimination. Since these requirements are minimal, they don't always take a design or personal preferences into consideration.  Whether you are adjusting to a life of chronic pain, building a home to meet the needs of a disability, or are renovating for aging-in-place, Universal Design can provide the accommodations to make your space comfortable and functional.

From minor, quick-fixes to full-scale renovations, Universal Design can be implemented in any home. With the help of local professionals, there are many ways to transition a home for safety and comfort. If you are in the building phase, you can make some good design choices that will serve you well over time. Here are some ways to prepare your home for Universal Design.

  1. Entrances: Think about the current ways you can enter your home. Is there a way to get in without steps? Aim to make one entry more convenient for yourself, your family, and guests. This may involve adding a ramp or making renovations to an existing access point.
  2. Floor Plan: An open design allows for a better flow of movement with less obstacles. With fewer hallways and doors to navigate, the easier it will be to get around. This might translate into shifting around furniture or removing a wall to offer better movement.
  3. Bathrooms: Consider making changes to at least one of your current bathrooms. If possible, widen the doorway to allow better access for a wheelchair or walker. A walk-in tub or curbless shower can be incorporated into your design, so there is no stepping up or over the side. The sink and toilet should also be accessible to people of all ages, heights, and mobility.
  4. Kitchen: An open design with varied counter heights will make your kitchen usable for various ages and abilities. Pull-out shelves and open shelving will make storage more accessible. Something as simple as improved lighting can also prevent falls anywhere in the home. Strive for a balance between natural and artificial light.
  5. Bedrooms: A bedroom on the first floor works for many life stages and is necessary for aging in place. If you don't already have one in the main living area, consider adding one.
  6. Windows: They not only provide natural light, which aids in reading and completing tasks, but windows also connect us to nature and our community. Adding or enlarging windows is an excellent way to open your space and enhance your mood.
  7. Outdoors: If your entrances are exposed, consider covering one or all of them to provide you with protection from the elements. Adding a deck off one of the entrances offers a natural extension of the home, but also allows you easy access to sitting outdoors. Container gardening on the deck can be therapeutic too.

Think about your lifestyle and priorities and make adjustments to your space as needed. If possible, design your home to grow with you, so you are not faced with a full-blown renovation project later in life. With Universal Design, you can still have the look and feel you want in your space without sacrificing the functionality you need.

 

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