Many seniors prefer to stay in their own homes as they age – or “age in place” – but not all homes are set up to accommodate the physical challenges of aging adults. If you or your loved one would like to remain in your home, there is good news. Often just several small changes can have a big impact on successfully aging in place and by utilizing the principles of Universal Design (UD), homes can be adapted to be more accessible, more functional and safer.
Small changes in the home can actually make a big difference, such as changing lighting to reduce glare, installing handrails on staircases or smoothing thresholds. These changes make the living environment easier and safer for all ages, from toddlers to seniors.
Depending upon the current set up on the home, some changes may involve select remodeling, such as updating a bathroom with roll-in shower or removing loose rugs and installing wall-to-wall carpeting instead. These types of Universal Design elements require a monetary investment but it would be less expensive and less disruptive than moving into an assisted living facility.
If you planning on building a home, consider incorporate UD elements in your new space no matter what your current age and physically ability is. With the aging populations, incorporating features such as hallways wide enough for wheelchairs or walkers, low light switches, higher electrical outlets and installing blocks behind walls to accommodate grab bars later can add great resale value to the home.
You may also want to consult with interior designers and home builders who are Certified Aging in Place (CAP) specialists. These professionals can help determine which UD elements to bring into your current home or incorporate into your new home’s blueprints.
Helpful Universal Design Elements:
- Motion detector lights
- Reduced or no-glare lights for general lighting, task lighting for tasks
- Handrails on both sides of stairs
- Electric outlets that can be reached from a wheelchair
- Lowered light switches that can be reached from a wheelchair
- Programmable thermostats
- Drawers instead of cabinets in kitchen
- D-shaped cabinet and drawer pulls
- Wall-to-wall carpet instead of rugs
- Wires neatly managed, off floors or behind walls
- Grab bars by toilets and in showers
- Roll-in showers and room for shower seat
- Hand-held shower heads on glides
- Non-slip, low-maintenance floors in bathrooms
- Kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and laundry on same floor (ground level or accessible by elevator)
- Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer
- Accessible from wheelchair/counter height dishwasher, microwave, stove and oven
- Flat cook top/range with front controls
- Varied counter heights so cooks can sit or stand
- Beveled corners on counters, furniture and walls
- Front-load, front-control washer and dryer
- 36-inch-wide doorways and hallways
Visit the National Aging In Place Council to learn more about how you can age in place and visit The National Association of Home Builders to find a Certified Aging in Place (CAP) specialist.
If the time has come when your aging loved one is no longer able to live independently, please contact the knowledgeable staff at ElderLink to help you find elder care services or an assisted living facility within California that is customized for your family.