Using Universal Design To Age In Place

November 11, 2022

Filed in: {Home Safety}

universal design and aging in place design
By Janet Engel, OT/L, CAPS

As we age, the desire to stay in our own homes becomes more important. For many of us, the thought of leaving our home and community is a scary proposition.

The home environment and aging in place can be a challenge for many older people.

Fortunately, there are design strategies that can help us age in place gracefully and safely.

As we age, our future needs can change and we may need to plan for different types of care and or adding accessibility features in our homes such as a curbless shower or walk-in shower in order to create a safe and accessible design.

The Principles of Universal Design are a set of guidelines for the design of products and environments to be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or disability.

Universal design is an approach to design that takes into account the needs of all users to the greatest extent possible, regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.

Universal design features can be incorporated into any home, making it more livable for people of all ages.

Some Common Universal Design Features Include:

-Wider doorways and hallways that accommodate wheelchairs and walkers

-Lever handles on doors and faucets or bathroom fixture

-Non-slip flooring

-Good lighting

-Easy to reach storage

-Multi-level counters in your bathroom and kitchen

-Automated window treatments

-Smart home features

These are just a few of the many features that can make your home more comfortable and safe for all.

By incorporating universal design principles into your home, you can age in place with confidence.

Universal Design Versus Aging In Place

There is a big difference between the two approaches of Universal Design and aging in place.

Universal Design is about making things accessible for everyone, regardless of age or ability. Aging in place, on the other hand, is specifically about making homes and living spaces safe and comfortable for older adults.

There are some similarities between the two concepts, of course. Both emphasize the importance of accessibility and both strive to make living spaces more comfortable and convenient. But there are also some key differences.

Universal Design is more concerned with ensuring that everyone can use a space, regardless of ability or age.

This means that things like door handles and light switches need to be easy to use for everyone, not just older adults.

An important aspect of aging in place is using universal design approaches to make the home more accessible for everyone.

Aging in place, on the other hand, is specifically about making homes and living spaces safe and comfortable for older adults.

This can involve things like installing grab bars, adding more LED lighting in the bathroom, kitchen, and hallways, adding technology in the home to improve communication both internally and remotely, or widening doorways to accommodate wheelchair users.

So, which one is right for you? It really depends on your needs and preferences.

If you want to make sure that your home is accessible for everyone, then universal design may be the way to go.

But if you’re specifically interested in making your home more comfortable and safe as you age, then a combination of aging in place design or as I have coined it “Living Well Design” and Universal Design elements is probably a better option.

Ease Of Use And Aging In Place

As we age, it becomes increasingly important to maintain our sense of independence.

One way to do this is to choose products and services that are easy to use. Here are some tips on how to make your life easier as you age:

1. Look for products that are easy to grip and handle. This is especially important for products like toothbrushes, can openers, and pens.

2. Choose products with large buttons or controls. This will make them easier to use if you have arthritis or other conditions that affect your dexterity.

3. Avoid products with small parts. These can be difficult to handle and easy to lose.

4. Consider products that offer extra features that can help you. For example, many phones now have large buttons and talking caller ID.

5. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask a salesperson for assistance in choosing the right product for you.

6. Take your time when making a purchase. Don’t feel rushed into making a decision.

7. Research products online before you buy them. This can help you learn about a product’s features and whether it’s right for you.

8. Check the return policy before you buy. This way, you can return a product if it’s not what you wanted.

9. Compare prices before you buy. You may be able to find a better deal online or at another store.

10. Ask family members and friends for recommendations. They may know of products that are easy to use and work well.

11. Look for products with features that make them easy to use. For example, look for products with large buttons or handles.

12. Choose products that come with instructions. This can help you learn how to use them properly.

Comfort And Aging In Place

As we age, our bodies change and we may not be as comfortable in our homes as we once were. Adapting our homes to better suit our needs can help us age in place comfortably and safely.

Some simple changes that can make a big difference include:

-Installing handrails in hallways and bathrooms

-Adding ramps or lift chairs to make getting in and out of the house easier

-Widening doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers

-Installing grab bars in the shower and near the toilet

-Installing a wall hung shower bench

-Making sure all stairways have secure handrails

-Putting nonslip mats in the bathtub and shower

-Keeping a clear path from the bed to the bathroom

-Main level master bedroom and bathroom

-Paying attention to lighting, both inside and outside the home

-Organizing closets and cupboards so items are easy to reach

Main level master bedroom and bathroom

These are just a few of the things that can be done to make aging in place more comfortable.

Talk to a contractor and an occupational therapist to get more ideas tailored to your specific needs.

And don’t forget, even small changes can make a big difference in your quality of life.

Safety And Aging In Place

One of the most important things to consider when aging in place is safety.

There are a few key areas to focus on in order to make your home as safe as possible.

First, take a look at your entryways. Make sure all doors and windows are well-lit and easily visible from the street.

Second, take a look at your floors. Carpet can be a trip hazard, so if you have it in your home, make sure it is firmly attached to the floor and not bunched up.

If you have high pile carpeting, consider taking it out and replace it with a low maintenance flooring such as luxury vinyl plank (LVT) or something comparable.

Throw rugs are also a tripping hazard, so it’s best to avoid them altogether. If you have hardwood or tile floors, make sure they are clean and free of any debris.

Third, take a look at your kitchen. The kitchen is one of the most common places for accidents to happen, so it’s important to make sure it is as safe, accessible, and as functional as possible.

Keep all appliances in good working order and make sure they are properly plugged in.

Install drawer organizers to make finding items easier. Install LED strip lighting inside drawers and underneath cabinets.

LED strip lighting can improve wayfinding in the dark and reduce your fall risk. Opt for a multi-level counter in order to accommodate users that cannot stand for extended periods of time during meal prep or other activities.

Have adequate task lighting in order to help you function in the kitchen. Keep in mind that as we age we need more light to see due to a natural detirioration in our vision.

Fourth, take a look at your bathroom. The bathroom is another common place for accidents to happen, so it’s important to make sure it is safe as well.

Keep all medications within reach and make sure they are properly labeled. Install grab bars in the tub or shower and make sure the bath mat is slip-resistant.

Install LED lighting in the shower and throughout the bathroom. If there is sufficient room, add a chair with arm rests so you can dress and complete grooming/hygiene tasks from a seated position.

It will reduce your fall risk and fatigue. Have an electrician install at least 2 GFCI outlets for safety.

One should be near the toilet. Install an LED back lit mirror for better lighting and energy savings.

If you are remodeling your bathroom, use non-skid, low maintenance flooring. And always add color contrast in your design to easily distinguish one surface from another.

Walk-in tubs may not be the safest option for most people. They normally have a high threshold and narrow opening.

A walk-in tub also has to completely empty before you can open the door to exit.

Finally, take a look at your bedroom. The bedroom is where you will be spending a lot of time, so it’s important to make sure it is comfortable and safe.

Make sure the bed is at a comfortable height and that there is enough space to move around. Place a bench or chair by your bed so you can dress from a seated position.

If you have a nightstand, make sure it is sturdy and that there is nothing on it that could fall and hurt you.

Place a bed rail near your bed if you are having difficulty transferring in/out of bed. They are inexpensive and can make a huge difference in terms of safety and independence.

Making your home safe for aging in place doesn’t have to be difficult. By taking a few simple steps, you can ensure that your home is safe and comfortable for you to live in for many years to come and thereby creating a home for life.

Security and Aging In Place

One of the most important things to consider when aging in place is security. As we age, we become more vulnerable to crime, both as victims and as targets.

More than half of people aging in place are women. There are a few things you can do to help keep yourself safe:

1. Keep your doors and windows locked, even when you’re home.

2. Install a security system.

3. Get to know your neighbors and keep an eye out for each other.

4. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

5. Keep a list of emergency contacts handy, including the police, fire department, and your doctor or hospital.

6. Have a plan in place in case of an emergency, such as a fire or break-in.

7. Consider taking a self-defense class.

Visitability And Aging In Place

What Is Visitability?

Visitability is the design of homes and communities to be accessible and welcoming for everyone, regardless of age, ability or circumstances.

This includes features such as no-step or zero step entrances, extra-wide hallways (at least 32 inches wide) and doorways, a hand rail adjacent to steps, and lever handles on doors are just some features that will increase access and safety in your home.

Why Is Visitability Important For Aging In Place?

As we age, many of us start to experience changes in our mobility, vision, and hearing.

These changes can make it difficult to get around our homes and communities.

Visitability features can help us stay independent and connected to the people and places we love.

What Are Some Visitability Features I Can Add To My Home?

There are many visitability features that can make your home more accessible and welcoming for everyone. Some features to consider include:

· Widening doorways and hallways (at least 32 inches wide)

· Adding no-step entrances

· Installing lever handles on doors

· Adding grab bars in the bathroom

· Building a ramp to the front or back door

· Adding lighting throughout the home

· Installing a stairlift or elevator

How Can Visitability Features Help Me Age In Place?

Visitability features can help you stay independent and connected to the people and places you love.

These features can make it easier to get around your home and community, and can provide a safe and comfortable space for visitors.

As you age, visitability features can also help you maintain your independence by giving you the option to age in place rather than move to a new home or into a long-term care facility.

What Are Some Things I Can Do To Age In Place?

In addition to making your home more visitable, there are many other things you can do to make aging in place easier. Some of these include:

· Modifying your home to make it more accessible and safe

. Have your vision checked by an ophthalmologist every year or more often if you have a pre- existing health condition such as diabetes, glaucoma, or macular degeneration

· Getting regular exercise to maintain your strength and mobility

· Staying socially connected by joining community groups or attending events

· Planning ahead by organizing your finances and making legal arrangements

· Eating a healthy diet and managing any chronic health conditions you may have

Making small changes now can make a big difference later on. By taking steps to age in place, you can enjoy your retirement years while maintaining your independence.

Beauty In Aesthetic Design And Aging In Place

There is a growing movement in the design world towards what is known as “aging in place” design.

This type of design takes into account the fact that we are living longer and want to be able to stay in our homes as we age, instead of moving into assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

One of the most important aspects of aging in place design is comfort. We want our homes to be comfortable places where we can relax and enjoy our golden years.

This means taking into account things like ergonomics, acoustics, and lighting.

Another important aspect of aging in place design is aesthetics. Just because we are getting older doesn’t mean we want our homes to look like hospitals or nursing homes!

We still want our homes to be stylish and reflect our personal taste.

And finally, aging in place design must also incorporate safety, accessibility, and function into the equation.

As we age, we become more susceptible to falls and other accidents. Therefore, it is important to make sure that our homes are safe places for us to live.

Aging in place design is a relatively new concept, but it is one that is quickly gaining popularity.

As more and more people reach retirement age, they are looking for ways to stay in their homes and maintain their independence.

If you considering aging in place in your current home, please hire a certified aging in place specialist to help you with home modifications.

Who Are Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists?

A certified aging in place specialist (CAPS) is a professional who has been specifically trained to help seniors age in place safely and comfortably.

CAPS-certified professionals have the skills and knowledge to assess the unique needs of seniors and make recommendations for products and services that can help them live independently.

They also have a network of resources and contacts that they can connect seniors with, if needed.

If you or a loved one is interested in aging in place, working with a CAPS-certified professional can help ensure that your home is safe and comfortable, and that you have the resources and support you need to age independently.

How Do I Find An NAHB Certified CAPS Instructor?

There are a few ways that you can find an National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Certified CAPS Instructor.

The first way is to check the NAHB website. They will have a list of all the certified instructors in your area.

Another way is to ask your local home builders association if they know of any certified instructors.

Finally, you can always contact the CAPS office directly and they will be able to help you find a certified instructor in your area.

Who Can Earn A Certified Aging In Place Certification (CAPS)?

Some of the most common CAPS-certified professionals include contractors, homebuilders, remodelers, occupational therapists, interior designers, and architects.

Many different types of businesses that work with older adults or those with disabilities can benefit from having at least one staff member who is CAPS certified.

As the baby boomer generation continues to age, the demand for services and products related to aging in place is likely to increase.

Businesses that are able to meet this demand will be well-positioned to succeed in the coming years. Those who are not prepared may find themselves struggling to keep up with the competition.

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