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.
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.”
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.