Universal Design: Access for everyone

It’s a common story. People get injured and their house becomes home to 20 grab bars strategically located so that getting up and down is never a problem. What about navigating kitchen cupboards? Bathroom sink? Alternatively, parents express to their children that they do not want to move to a retirement home or a senior’s facility. But what are the options? There are too many stairs in those old houses.

Universal design has become a bit of a trendy buzz word in recent years, but some may not know what this means exactly. Simply put, universal design is the answer to a growing need in the home: accessibility.

Essentially, universal design is about creating a beautiful space that everyone can live in/visit both now and in the future. Age, size, ability… none of that matters. With universal design, there is safe access for everyone. Needs and abilities can evolve over time so universal design allows residents to live in and enjoy their home during all stages of their lives.

The trend was given a big boost by the recent dip in the economy. Homeowners would rather remodel than buy a new house. But ultimately, the reason to embrace universal design is the desire to age in place. An AARP National Survey found that 67% of people age 45 and over want to remain in their homes as long as possible. That number increased, up to a whopping 90%, as people age. Someone had to respond. Architects and builders embraced that desire and began to create homes with unique features that provide safe access for people of all ages. So, it started as a solution to the “age in place” dilemma but has expanded to providing livable homes for anyone and everyone.

It’s also important to note the word “design.” This is not just about adding grab bars around a home. Universal design means creating a beautiful home that happens to have features hidden in the design that will help homeowners and visitors alike.

Some essential universal design features include:

  • No-step entry
  • Wide doorways and hallways
  • Reachable controls and switches
  • Easy-to-use handles

If you own a multilevel house, you can incorporate universal design by adding a home elevator or wheelchair lift, making the home you love more accessible in the future.

If you are looking for smaller ways to update your current home and incorporate the new concept, some great solutions include:

  • Raised front-loading washer and dryer
  • Easy access storage and counter tops
  • Low or no-threshold stall showers with built-in benches or seats
  • Non-slip floors, bathtubs, and showers
  • Stairlift for stair travel

So get creative. How can you update you home now so that you can enjoy it well into the future?

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