We are hearing a lot lately about Universal Design. With so many baby boomers choosing to ‘Age in Place’, or age at home, instead of a senior’s residence, it is becoming increasingly important that our homes be adapted to accommodate our aging bodies. As we age there are many factors which need to be considered to keep our homes safe and user-friendly. Changes in our vision, hearing, balance/stability, strength, and mobility are some of the things that will inevitably change, and our homes will need to be designed accordingly.
Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods http://www.canbc.org/universal_design.htm have listed the 7 Principles of Universal Design, which establish guidelines for designing ‘Barrier Free Environments’:
- Equitable Use:
The design is useful and marketable to any group of users.
- Flexibility in Use:
The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
- Simple and Intuitive Use:
Use of the design is easy to understand.
- Perceptible Information:
The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user.
- Tolerance for Error:
The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintentional actions.
- Low Physical Effort:
The design can be used efficiently and comfortably.
- Size and Space for Approach and Use:
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach and use.
If you plan to Age in Place, can your home accommodate a wheel chair? Even if you won’t need one, there may be friends or family who will visit and need access to your front door and bathroom. Here are some other things you may want to consider:
- Removing carpet or area rugs that could prove to be a tripping hazard
- Replacing door knobs with levers that are easier to use
- Adding grab bars/handrails inside your bathtub or shower and beside the toilet
- Replacing stairs with ramps
- Replace your bathtub with a walk-in curb-free shower (see photo)
- Replacing hardwired telephones with portable ones
- Installing crank-operated windows
- Replacing curtains with easier-to-operate & maintain blinds
- Converting cupboards to drawers or sliding shelves for easier access to back items
- Installing single-lever faucets
- Adjusting the height of toilets
- Installing motion sensitive lighting
- Using contrasting colours, textures, or patterns for depth perception issues
With some thoughtful planning, Aging in Place can be a possible and very positive choice!