It’s design that is practical, functional, and efficient and yes, even beautiful: it is about making the home more livable now and in the future. Planning for and including some of the following features will make the home more accessible to all who live there or who come to visit. There is no one way to make universal design work; the key is to take the home owners individual needs and situation into account and plan for the future. The basis of the design is to provide for flexibility and functionality.
- Some general features that should be considered throughout the home include planned areas for eating, sleeping, and bathing activities located on the main floor without having to use stairs. If considering an addition to the home, plan for main floor accessibility and no stairs.
- Plan all doorways that access the main areas to be at least 32 inches wide but ideally, plan for 36 inches wide. Install lever style door handles since they are much easier to use than a round door knob.
- Plan for hallways that are 42 inches wide and, if possible, 48 inches wide. Not only is it easier to maneuver should someone in the home have a mobility issue, but it is also easier to move furniture if the halls are wider. This is especially important for the hallways leading to the master bedroom and bathrooms.
- Locate light switches approximately 42-48 inches above the floor for easy reach and place them in an easy reach location near the door or entry area of each room. Use rocker switches and dimmers to control the lighting. Electrical outlets are more accessible if they are located 18-24 inches above the floor. Also plan for enough electrical outlets so that there are reduced needs for extension cords since they create a tripping hazard. Remember to place the thermostat no higher than 48 inches from the floor so that a seated person can adjust them. Make sure the thermostat has readable numbers with large print and good contrast.
- Provide phone jacks in the main areas of the home including the kitchen, living room and master bedrooms. Consider the future needs of the home owner and allow for accessible locations that meet their health needs.
- Window sills in the main areas of the home like the living room, dining room and bedroom should be no higher than 30 inches off the floor so a person who is seated or lying in a bed would be able to see out of them.
- Lighting in the home should be even and placed to minimize glare on smooth surfaces. Light fixtures, lamps, and window treatments should also be chosen and located to reduce and avoid glare. Dimmable switches help with changeable lighting needs.
- Choose flooring that has a non-slip surface that is easy to maintain. If carpeting is preferred, use a tightly woven, low pile over a thin pad.
Careful planning and designing when choosing to remodel can make the home more flexible and functional now and in the future. Aging in Place is about active living and designing a practical, functional and efficient space that looks beautiful and is easy to maintain and promotes safety and comfort.
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