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Shattering the Stigma: How Implementing Universal Design Can Improve Your Home at Any Age

Let’s face it, no one wants talk about getting old. In a society obsessed with youth and vitality, it might seem out of place to extend conversations about aging with your contractor or interior designer. But as recent studies have pointed out, the majority of baby boomers are not only ready to retire but are considering making certain modifications to their existing homes in order to age in place. Although the term “aging in place” might bring about not so pleasant thoughts or connotations, the term Universal Design is now catching on and making headway in recent design trends.

Universal design is a concept which focuses on making your environment usable for all people of all ages. People with disabilities and without. Universal design helps individuals prepare for the future while it improves the quality of life today. Implementing universal design elements doesn’t have to be a complicated or costly.

Floating Bathroom Vanity Simple solutions might include:

  • Adding grab bars in the shower, by the toilet and the tub
  • Installing a handheld shower or an adjustable shower seat
  • Replacing an existing conventional sink with a pedestal sink accessible to someone in a wheelchair
  • Widening the doorways to create the feeling of spaciousness and accommodating a wheelchair
  • Improving lighting and brighten up the room with night lights and well-lit pathways

Universal Design is about increasing the client’s usability and enjoyment of their home, it does not have to feel “institutional” or be “unattractive.”

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While most consumers acknowledge their changing needs as they age, it’s the designers responsibility to suggest potential alternatives in making their home more comfortable, keeping their clients more independent as they age. Although designers can not anticipate their client’s mobility or living needs 20 or 30 years in advance, designers can create opportunities and solutions that adapt to the client’s requirements.

No one wants to think about getting old, or having a sudden physical limitation, but all individuals regardless of age, should prepare if those circumstances should occur. The way we need our home to function today, might not be well suited for the way we need it to function down the road.

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Five Universal Design Elements to Incorporate Into Your Home

If you’ve been considering a remodel, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard the term, “universal design.”

While universal design has been around for decades, remodeling for accessibility has recently evolved into a growing trend. Whether due to the growing number of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) or the fact that homeowners are simply looking to fit their home for better functionality, universal design is here to stay.

Because universal design elements provide convenience and functionality benefits, the term has a tendency to be misinterpreted; leaving many to believe it’s only for those who are aging or having disabilities.

This theory is simply not true.

We’re here to set the record straight because absolutely everyone can benefit from a space that is universally designed and created to maximize comfort, convenience and accessibility.

Think back to a time when you were running late and had your hands full; using your foot to push down on a leverage-style door handle would have been much more convenient than setting everything down and twisting a door knob. Laugh all you want, but we’ve all been there.

In our experience, universal design elements are often not requested unless the client has a direct need for them, which makes sense. However, we also know that those clients who may not think they have a direct need for these elements, are inevitably missing out on added convenience and functionality in their home.

Here are five universal design elements that may already be playing a role in your home:
– Leverage-style door handles
– Pull-out drawers
– Motion sensor faucets
– Curbless showers
– Slip-resistant tile

As you probably noticed from the list above, all five of those design elements are meant to make your life easier in some way.

In our opinion, the most valuable advantage to universal design is that it provides convenience for literally everyone who walks into your front door, regardless of their age or circumstance. Moreover, it provides homeowners the flexibility and longevity throughout their lifetime while they live in the home, allowing them to enjoy their homes longer without having to move.

If you’ve incorporated universal design elements in your home, we’d love to hear what they are. Please share your opinions below in the comments section.