As baby boomers begin to approach their 70’s, how to age gracefully is popping up in a variety of industries. And one of the largest industries to take a strong interest is real estate – how do more people stay in their homes longer, and stay out of assisted living and nursing facilities? The answer may be in Universal Design – the basic skills of creating structures that are safe and convenient, no matter what your age or ability.
Universal design means building an attractive, stylish space that appeals to everyone in the family. It makes it easier to live in throughout the different phases of your life, and does so in a way that doesn’t scream “clinical” or “institutional”.
While universal design products may add a little cost to a build, remodel or redesign, it pays off in the long run. You can come home after surgery and move freely around. And you can live longer with the aid of some amazing inventions.
Universal design includes:
- No step, free flowing entry. Every home should have at least one entryway that makes it easy for everyone to enter.
- Single floor living. While you can have a multi-level home, be sure you have access to everything you need on one floor for when you need it. Kitchen, living space, sleeping quarters and a bathroom all on one floor means flexibility when you need it.
- Reachable controls. All electrical outlets, light switches and controls like thermostat should be accessible by everyone. Outlets should be 18-24 inches off the floor, and switches should be 42-48 inches from the floor.
- Wide hallways and doorways. All doorways, both internal and external, should be at least 36 inches wide to allow a wheelchair to freely move through. Hallways should be at least 42 inches wide to allow easy movement, and should be kept free of hazards at all times.
Plus a variety of other things, including:
- Elevated appliances, including front loading clothes washers and dryers, and dishwashers
- Adjustable shelving and cupboard space, and multi level countertops
- No threshold shower stalls and easy access bathtubs
- Task lighting to highlight areas throughout the home
- Easy grasp switches, handles and knobs