Aging in Place and Universal Design are not just for old people!
What Aging in Place does is allow us to decide – for ourselves – how long we can live in our own home before we “have to” move. Millions of Americans are turning to this life planning well in advance of actual need, as it maximizes personal comfort while minimizing the burden on friends, family and those in their community.
Universal Design is creating a home for a lifetime. Populations with medical or physical limitations need this planning process and, oftentimes, it becomes more immediate due to injury, sickness or severe changes in mobility.
Planning is necessary to satisfy new needs
As we grow older or face an injury or disabling condition, more consideration must be given to the tasks and functions we have always taken for granted.
Economic conditions also contribute to the need for this planning, as multi-generational lifestyles evolve. Research estimates 49 million Americans are already living in a multi-generational family household. That means parents living with their parents; grandparents living with their grandchildren; grown children with families living with their parents; etc.
Aging in Place/Universal Design features
Establishing a comfortable and safe living environment that can offer multi-generational and special population use, will include hallways and doorways wide enough for safe passage of wheelchairs and walkers; tubs and showers with minimal steps, thus reducing the risk of accidental falling; grab bars in showers and tubs with sufficient backing that will permit balance and the support of adult weight and fulfill their intended design purpose, if needed; kitchen shelving that will slide out to avoid bending; reduced height kitchen work counter and cooking surfaces, and accessible bathroom vanities for those confined to wheelchairs; extra height toe kicks at cabinetry to allow wheelchair access; adding motion sensors to both interior and exterior lighting for safer passage and lowering light switches at work stations; and lever door handles and plumbing controls that are more easily operated by those with arthritis or other debilitating circumstances.
Planning is key to creating a home for a lifetime of universal living, and a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) is trained and certified to perform these planning phases.
Paul Sabatello is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist; a prestigious designation earned by fewer than 2,000 individuals nationwide and issued by the National Association of Homebuilder Remodelers (NAHBR™) in collaboration with AARP, National Council on Aging, NAHB Seniors Housing Center and NAHB Research Center.