As we grow older, and the desire to stay in the homes that we have created so many memories in gets stronger, we often have to make modifications to our houses to accommodate for our aging bodies. This process is known as aging in place – a topic we have covered in the past. But what if you find yourself in need of a home that is accessible for a loved one with disabilities? Or how about both scenarios? If so, then you will need to know a new catch-phrase: universal design.
What is Universal Design
Universal design is one of those home remodeling phrases that often get mixed in with terms like “age in place” and “age friendly design”. And while there are many similarities between the three home improvement ideologies, there are some concepts that set universal design apart from the pack.
At its core, universal design is all about accessibility — regardless of the age and ability of the residents that live in a home. Whether the homeowners have a son who has mobility issues or an elderly parent with poor vision, universal design seeks to ensure that everyone who lives in the home has full access to it and are safe no matter which room they are in.
In addition, these “safe” and “accessible” elements are meant to be blended in with the current home design so that they are seamless and do not stick out like a sore thumb. Universal design is also meant to be forward thinking so that additional features can be added in the future to adapt to a family’s needs over time.
In traditional age-in-place remodeling, the focus is more on aging and elderly populations and is not typically used for younger generations who are disabled or face future disability problems — though, again, many of the design elements are similar, if not the same.
Features of Universal Design and Home Improvement
At the end of the day, the elements of universal design are all about allowing everyone in the home — currently and in the future — to use and access every room and feature. To that end, the following are all typical features in a home with universal design:
- Expanded hallways that are designed to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs
- Doorways that are wide and that feature easy-to-open handles (versus knobs). Doors often have a hinge that lets them open further than traditional doors.
- Enhanced lighting for family members who have vision troubles. This helps prevent spills and falls.
- First floor bathrooms.
- Large showers and walk-in tubs that make them easier to access.
- Slip resistant flooring in areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.
- Fixtures that are clearly marked for hot and cold.
- Grab-bars for showers, near the toilet and other areas.
Georgia Universal Design and Age-in-Place Remodeling
Do you have a question about universal design or age-in-place home remodeling? The have a disabled family member or expect to be taking care of an elderly loved one and want to make sure your home is accessible to them? Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling will be happy to answer any questions you may have!