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Universal Design: Live Independently In Your Home As You Age!

Most homeowners plan to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. As a homeowner, have you considered preparing your home to maintain future independence in your senior years? Homeowners usually build or remodel their homes for convenience and comfort. As life moves forward and needs change—can your home be easily modified for changing lifestyle needs? Is your home a safety risk as your sight and mobility becomes a challenge? As wise investors of your time and finances, we need to take into consideration “Aging in Place” issues via Universal Design.

A home assessment is the first place to start. Here are a few features that allow for easy transition for comfortable living through all stages of life:

  • Entrances and exits should be covered and step-less. Existing steps are modified with handrails or ramp.
  • Doorways are at least 32” – 36” wide including closets and bathrooms.
  • Little or no floor transitions throughout home. Limited use of Carpet or area rugs.
  • Walk in shower with low or zero threshold. Built-in seat allowing accessible reach to faucet. Reinforced walls around toilet and shower for future addition of decorative safety bars.
  • Install ADA commodes which are higher than standard commodes for easier transitions from sit to stand. (This feature would not be appropriate for young children)
  • Keep home free of clutter. Pathways around home are wide with no obstacles.
  • Good lighting in all rooms, including natural light and night lights in hallways, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Keep lamps on perimeter walls. For energy efficiency in lighting changes, consider solar tubes and sensor light switches, especially in rooms that you enter and leave the home from. For example: Entry or Foyer and Utility Room.
  • Lever doorknobs and faucets on all plumbing fixtures.
  • Bathroom vanity and kitchen sinks that are open underneath.
  • Raised dishwasher, pull-out shelves in kitchen and bathroom, visible kitchen cabinet storage.
  • Drawer pulls instead of knobs on cabinets.

These features of Universal Design offer an approach that allows people of all sizes, ages or abilities to live in a home that promotes their health, safety and independence today, and in the future. Universal Design has been around for a number of years. With the fifty plus age population escalating, it is one of the latest trends in building and remodeling. It can enhance the overall quality of life not just for you, but for those living around you. Most importantly, these Universal Design features in your home can be designed to flow and compliment your home’s style.
Preparing and designing your home for the future does not mean your home needs to look institutional. Universal Design principles can be aesthetically pleasing and customized to meet your individual, current and future needs. It is never too early to start thinking about an accessible, universal, or easy living home. Many homeowners leave it too late to consider universal design, safety and accessibility. Often, by the time they realize they need to make major changes to their living arrangements, the thought of remodeling and redesigning their home is too overwhelming. They then struggle to get around safely in their own home and wish they had started the process earlier in life. Be wise in the decisions you make about your home and build it, renovate it or modify it to last a lifetime.

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