Universal Design for the Ages

Inclusion means being welcoming to all. But how welcoming is your home? If a family member or guest is in a wheelchair, would he or she have ease of access? Will the house suit you well into the future as you “age in place,” that is, as you grow older and your needs change? Unless brand-new and designed to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications, it probably isn’t.

Impaired vision and diminished mobility happen to many of us as we age, and a traumatic injury can occur any moment. So, if you’re designing a new home, remodeling or retrofitting an older one, it makes sense to prepare for the future with features of “universal” design.

Sometimes referred to as barrier-free design, the idea behind universal design is to make places more accessible to all. But this doesn’t have to mean an institutional look with grab bars and ramps! Attractive, engaging design suitable for all ages and stages of life and health can be as unobtrusive as wider, more welcoming doorways, and using contrasting colors to differentiate subtle changes in floor levels or edges of countertops.

Our old Granite State is facing a “silver tsunami” as Baby Boomers grow older and fewer young people remain to start families. According to the NH Center for Public Policy Studies, by 2030 one-third of the population (almost half a million of us) will be 65+. So, while it’s not yet every man or woman for himself, remaining independent in our homes is important in the Live Free or Die state.

Simple steps to take now…

  • Replace all remaining incandescent bulbs with LED ones as needed. LED bulbs last much longer, are more efficient, and save money.
  • Examine lighting overall, including outside along paths and at entryways. More is better for both residents and guests. Install motion-sensor lights at entrances.
  • Is your street number well-lit and easily visible for visitors and emergency services?
  • As you replace appliances, think long-term: sit front-loading washers and dryers atop storage pedestals for less back bending; get a dishwasher with pull-out drawers; a range with controls that are front and center (with safety locks for the grandchildren).

When remodeling or building…

  • Keep it on the level! This goes for deck or patio access too. Anywhere you can provide access without adding steps can pay dividends down the road.
  • Plan a bedroom and bathroom suite on the first floor.
  • Widen doorways (looks more welcoming too), and work with your designer to eliminate or minimize a change in floor levels on each story.
  • Use drawer-type pulls instead of knobs on cabinets and drawers, and swap out doorknobs for push-down handles, to make it easier for arthritic hands.
  • Install brighter and more lighting, and more outlets to prevent the need for cords stretched across the floor. Put outlets higher up on the wall for ease of access.
  • Kitchen remodel? Have counters and cabinets installed at the right heights for more control over you’re your cooking areas as well as cleaning up.
  • Install a walk-in shower or tub with nonskid surface and flooring, and ergonomically placed grab bars (in décor color instead of metal) and a seat. Use antiscald valves and include a handheld showerhead.

Your high-tech home can be a lifesaver

Remember when the “space-age home” of The Jetsons TV cartoon? Baby Boomers do. Today’s wireless technology makes much of that a reality. Having your home connected through the Internet, you’re your mobile device allows you to check on the security of your residence and turn on lighting or heat from anywhere so your home environment is ready for you the moment you arrive.

And, it can also be a lifesaver, enabling you to check in with an elderly parent—and allow a senior or disabled adult to summon help at the push of a button or with a word command.

Things we now take for granted, such as remote-controlled power garage-door openers, were once considered assistive technology, so power up! Build in remote controls for lighting, heat and cooling. Add intercoms to avoid getting up or busting your vocal chords to communicate from different rooms.

Do you love where you live and plan to stay awhile? Create a home that’s warm and welcoming well into the future without sacrificing style or beautiful design. We’re proud to be a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) as designated by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

You can feel confident working with your 3W design, inc. professional to remodel a home that you’ll love no matter what your age or circumstance. You’ll always look forward to coming home and have a more welcoming space to accommodate all your family and friends.

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