The following is a description and explanation of Universal Design, taken from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) website:
"Aging in Place has become the ultimate "it" term today and can be seen everywhere from local newspapers to AARP’s Modern Maturity magazine to the National Association of Home Builders newsletters and website.
So, what’s going on? Why the need to think about aging in place at my age? Because you better do it now while you still can control how you do it. According to the U.S. government’s Agency on Aging, more than 70 million Americans today are considered Baby Boomers entering their retirement years. Included in the 70 million Baby Boomer population is that fact that one in every eight people is 65 years old or older and retirement villages in Arizona, Florida, etc., are not keeping up with the demand of this generation.
In fact, this generation and those following have decided they do not want to live in retirement communities but stay in the home they have raised their children, played with the grandchildren and created wonderful memories over the years, and that is where “aging in place” becomes an important concept to all.
So, you now have made the decision that you want to age in place. What next? What comes next is hiring a professional who has trained in the art of helping people age in place. You want to contact a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), a professional who has invested time to learn the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically enriching, barrier-free living environments for older Americans.
An NAHB certified CAPS professional can help explain the different ways you can incorporate universal design changes to your home without having the “institutional” look. Today’s manufacturers are catching on to this idea and producing beautifully crafted products to help you live in your home as independently as possible: you no longer have to have chrome grab bars everywhere in the house!
Established by the Center for Universal Design: Universal Design is the design of products and environments usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation. The secret word is design. Design is a tool to plan, create, establish, apply, and implement an approach and concepts necessary for the successful execution of a project. Coupled with the term “universal,” the needs of all people, of all ages, and all abilities can be met for a lifespan.
There are literally hundreds of universal design products, the list grows daily. And, as these features make life safer, easier, and promote independence, they will continue to gain in popularity. And the best aspect of universal design is that everyone benefits from it whether it is your children visiting with grandchildren (they can reach the light switch too; no steps to fall down; it’s a lot easier to maneuver a baby stroller through a 36” doorway than a smaller one); friends (no longer will Margaret have to worry about climbing the front steps with her bad hip); and you (admit it, it is a lot easier to see the recipe book now that you have installed the recess lighting in the kitchen).
Universal design additions could be as simple as adding handrails or slipguards in the bathtub to safely get in and out; adding more recess lighting in the kitchen to see better; or lowering light switches so you can turn off the lights a little easier. Or you can reconform your house by widening the doorways and hallways to make room for wheelchair use; changing the front steps into a ramp to avoid falls from visitors; installing an elevator to help you move safely between floors in your home.
Whether the home requires simple modifications or more complex ones, universal design allows individuals to remain in the home. If you are planning new construction, universal design elements can be used to make the home more accessible and friendly to all users. If you want to stay in the home you have lived in for year, modifications and assistive devices can bring long-term independence and confidence to you and your family."
For more information about Universal Design, visit the NAHB website.