Stay Put! Age In Place
To stay in our homes—or “age in place”—our homes must be able to accommodate our changing needs as our bodies age.
Luckily, by employing a mode of design called Universal Design (UD), we can make our homes more accessible, more operational and safer.
Surprisingly, many UD features are more like tweaks and not particularly noticeable. However, these small changes can make a huge difference in a home’s functioning. For example, retrofitting a home using UD can be as simple as changing lighting to reduce glare, putting up two handrails on staircases or making thresholds smooth. Incidentally, such changes make the living easier and more secure for everyone, from toddlers to seniors.
UD can also call for more involved remodeling—for instance a bathroom with a roll-in shower or installing wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the house. These UD elements are more of an investment but still less expensive and less disrupting than moving to assisted living. Retrofitting a home using UD can be done gradually as your budget allows and on an “as needed” basis.
If you are about to build a home, you are in a great position to incorporate UD elements in your new space—such as widening hallways for wheelchairs or walkers, lowering light switches, raising electrical outlets, putting blocks behind walls to accommodate grab bars later and much more. The cost of incorporating UD into the design of a new home is minimal, while having UD throughout the house can add great value for resale.
Interior designers and homebuilders who are Certified Aging in Place (CAP) specialists can help you decide which UD elements to bring into your current home or to your new home’s blueprints. To find such a specialist near you, visit The National Association of Home Builder’s at www.nahb.org and on the homepage click “Find” and then click on “Designees” to find the CAP directory.
To find out more about how you can stay in your home and stay independent, visit the National Aging In Place Council at www.ageinplace.org.
UD Elements to Consider
- Lights that turn on when you approach the home
- No-glare lights for general lighting, task lighting for tasks
- Rails on both sides of stairs
- Raised electric outlets
- Lowered rocker light switches
- Programmable thermostats
- Drawers instead of cabinets in kitchen
- D-shaped cabinet and drawer pulls
- Wall-to-wall carpet
- Wires neatly managed, off floors
- Grab bars by toilets and in showers (blocks can be placed behind walls during construction and bars then can be added as needed)
- Roll-in showers
- Hand-held showerheads on glides
- Non-slip, low-maintenance floors in bathrooms
- Kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and laundry on one floor
- Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer
- Raised or lowered dishwasher
- Counter-height microwave
- Flat cooktop with front controls
- Stoves with open space underneath for seated person
- Separate, comfort-height wall oven
- Varied counter heights so cooks can sit or stand
- Beveled corners on counters, furniture and walls
- Raised, front-load, front-control washer and dryer
- 36-inch-wide doorways and hallways