Every survey suggests, as does common sense, that aging Americans overwhelmingly prefer to stay in their homes and live independently for as long as they can. Whether that’s possible depends, in part, on whether their home has been built or remodeled to incorporate universal design features.
What exactly is Universal Design? Think of your body as synonymous with your home. As we age certain joints begin to show wear. We ache in places we never used to. And so to keep doing the things we love we make adjustments, take medication, add supports, braces and so forth. Think of Universal Design as a way of adjusting the home to accommodate the changing abilities of the homeowner to move about safely and securely. While aging is the primary driver of change for people, accidents and disease can suddenly change the lifestyle and needs of occupants.
If your home wasn’t conceived with Universal Design in mind have no worries. Any home can be remodeled and updated with “aging in place” elements. In fact, smart homeowners consider all remodeling improvements with aging in mind, regardless of where they are in life—even if they may not plan to stay in the home throughout their golden years. Why? Because Universal Design principles make homes comfortable and safe for people of all ages and abilities, there is no downside to starting early.
Don’t get the wrong idea
about Universal Design. While it ensures
accessibility and security for people using wheelchairs and walkers, it no
longer has the institutional look of early handicap accessible designs. Functionality
can also (should also) be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Murphy Bros. owner John Murphy, suggest one of the first aging in place adaptations to look at is the elimination of elements that could cause falls or limit accessibility such as uneven floor transitions, dim lighting, narrow doorways and high microwave ovens.
Murphy Bros.’ Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS), Cherie Poissant, encourages homeowners to consider surfaces and features that will be easier to clean and maintain, such as a non-wood deck or low maintenance siding. She also urges clients to explore ways to make space more flexible so it can respond to changing needs, such as a main level room and full bath that can be used for a home office or guest quarters. “Weigh the payback from upgrades that reduce ongoing energy costs, such as insulation and Energy Star rated appliances and lighting. And take advantage of smart technology that enables you to monitor and control systems remotely so you are free to travel and enjoy life,” suggests Poissant.
Below is an extensive checklist of universal design/aging in place features. As a leading design-build general contractor, Murphy Bros. is always available to offer you expert insights into each of these features and what makes sense for you and your home.
Overall Floor Plan
Stairways, Lifts, and Elevators
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
Reduced Maintenance/Convenience Features
Electrical: Lighting, Safety and Security
Adapted from Toolbase, Home Innovation Research Labs