The principle of universal design aims to create a built environment that is accessible for as much of the population as possible and as much of their lives as possible.
It is partially rooted in design for handicapped individuals; one of the grandfathers of universal design, Selwyn Goldsmith, was the first to create a dropped curb for wheelchairs.
However, universal design principles also support those who would like to age in place.
Universally designed multi-generational house plans are gaining popularity because today’s long life expectancy means more of us will be around longer. We often have living parents even when we are old ourselves.
Rather than designing a home for different stages in your life, such as drafting house plans for seniors separately from house plans for young couples, today’s designers attempt to accommodate all stages and possible changes in lifestyle in the same design. With this approach, “retirement house plans may also be perfect for younger generations and can prevent you from having to move home later on. A few thoughtful features throughout the home create universal access for all individuals.
Those who select multi-generational house plans enjoy a few additional benefits. First, if you have a universally designed home, the functional spaces of the house can adapt to your changing lifestyle, so you can stay in your home longer. (Few among us look forward to the prospect of entering a live-in nursing facility.)
Moreover, multi-generational home designs fetch an increased price on the housing market because more and more people want their homes to incorporate space for extended family, which may not be available in universal retirement house plans.
Universal design is also universally appealing, it seems. The icing on the cake is that multi-generational house plans are also eco-friendly since their design will be relevant longer, meaning there will be less need for remodelling or moving.
Six Steps To Aging In Place Gracefully
Complete a home safety check
One of the first things you can do is make sure your house, apartment or townhouse is set up to be a safe and easy place for you to get around.
Do a home safety check to reduce your future risk of an accident or a fall. AARP has identified several easy modifications that will ensure your home is safe.
These include non-slip floor surfaces, grab bars in bathrooms, lever-handled doorknobs, and personal alert systems that enable you to call for help in emergencies.
Prioritize Your Health
Keeping yourself in good physical shape is crucial in helping you remain independent at home for as long as possible.
Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and minimized stress can help you ward off serious health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, dementia, and depression.
Make A Transportation Plan.
It’s important to get out and about in your community, and to drive yourself is only one of many options to get you where you need to go.
Look into what public transportation is available to you, talk to friends and family about how they may be able to help with rides, and familiarize yourself with local taxi companies or ride-sharing services such as Lyft.
You don’t need to become a computer whiz to stay in touch with friends and loved ones from all over the globe.
Getting acquainted with your smartphone or digital tablet’s messaging and video screen sharing programs can help keep you connected from the comfort of your living room. You’ll also find out what’s going on in your community and access helpful services such as grocery delivery and taxi services.
Look Into Long-term Care Insurance.
Getting older comes with changing health needs, and most of us who age at home will ultimately need some form of long term care.
Currently, Medicare does not pay for ongoing long-term home care, so looking into alternatives such as long-term care insurance may be a good option.
This type of insurance helps pay for the cost of care generally not covered by health insurance or Medicare, and it will make a big difference when the time comes to consider a caregiver at home.
Make A Care Plan.
Not only is it beneficial to prepare financially for any future home care needs, but it also helps to have a plan for who will be there to care for you.
Designed for healthy individuals anticipating that their needs will change as they age. By signing up now, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing who to call if a crisis occurs or if it’s time to consider a little extra help at home. There is no cost to enrol.
What Support Can Help Me Age At Home?
You can get almost any type of help you want in your home—often for a cost.
You can get more information on many of the services listed here from your local Area Agency on Aging, local and State offices on aging or social services, tribal organization, or nearby senior centre.
Is bathing, washing your hair, or dressing getting harder to do? Maybe a relative or friend could help. Or, you could hire a trained aide for a short time each day. Household chores
Do you need help with chores like housecleaning, yard work, grocery shopping, or laundry? Some grocery stores and drug stores will take your order over the phone and bring the items to your home.
You can hire cleaning and yard services, or maybe someone you know has a housekeeper or gardener to suggest. Some housekeepers will help with laundry. Some dry cleaners will pick up and deliver your clothes.
I am worried that you might not be eating nutritious meals or tired of eating alone? Sometimes you could share cooking with a friend or have a potluck dinner with a group of friends. Find out if meals are served at a nearby senior centre or house of worship.
Eating out may give you a chance to visit with others. Is it hard for you to get out? Ask someone to bring you a healthy meal a few times a week. Meal delivery programs bring hot meals into your home; some of these programs are free or low-cost.
Do you worry about paying bills late or not at all? Are health insurance forms confusing? Maybe you can get help with these tasks. Ask a trusted relative to lend a hand. Volunteers, financial counsellors, or geriatric care managers can also help.
Just make sure you get the referral from a trustworthy source, like your local Area Agency on Aging. If you use a computer, you could pay your bills online. Check with your bank about this option. Some people have regular bills, like utilities and rent or mortgage, paid automatically from their checking account.
Be Careful To Avoid Money Scams.
Never give your Social Security number, bank or credit card numbers, or other sensitive information to someone on the phone (unless you placed the call) or in response to an email. Always check all bills, including utility bills, for charges you do not recognize.
Even though you might not need it now, think about giving someone you trust permission to discuss your bills with creditors or your Social Security or Medicare benefits with those agencies. Learn more about legal and financial planning for older adults.
Do you forget to take your medicine? There are devices available to remind you when it is time for your next dose. Special pill boxes allow you or someone else to set out your pills for an entire week. Have you just gotten out of the hospital and still need nursing care at home for a short time? The hospital discharge planner can help you make arrangements, and Medicare might pay for a home health aide to come to your home.
If you can’t remember what the doctor told you to do, try to have someone go to your doctor visits with you. Ask them to write down everything you are supposed to do or, if you are by yourself, ask the doctor to put all recommendations in writing.
Improvements Tips to Get Your House Ready for Your Next Age
Limit the Steps
Having easy access to and from the house is an important feature in any home. But for older homeowners, particularly those suffering from mobility issues, it’s paramount.
If you’re planning on retooling the exterior of your house, the experts recommend that you try to devise an entry without stairs.
It needn’t look like a handicap ramp; if there’s space, the approach can simply be a nice slope to the doorway. If you’re putting in a ramp—or even adding walkways or decks—consider using nonslip materials. And if you can do nothing more, at least plan on a no-threshold front door to reduce the risk of tripping.
Go Low Maintenance
When it comes time to replace exterior materials, choose products that require little or no maintenance, such as vinyl siding, metal roofing, and composite decking.
These products will offer dual benefits of good looks and lasting performance. You can reduce landscape maintenance, too, by choosing native plants and installing a time-activated sprinkler system.
In the kitchen, install cabinets with pull-out shelves on rollers, so it’s easier to access the items inside. And opt for drawers rather than base cabinets.
They will make it easier to retrieve contents without having to reach into the back of cabinets. Consider installing your dishwasher 12 inches off the floor to cut down on bending.
If you want to install an eating counter, plan on its sitting 29 to 30 inches from the floor—a height comfortable for dining chairs rather than barstools.
Choose Smart Appliances
Today’s manufacturers continue to make innovative design improvements in programmable and smart appliances, such as stoves that notify you with a beep when they turn on or that have controls that light up, says Levner.
These can be a real help to older homeowners as their sight deteriorates or they get a bit forgetful about whether or not they’ve turned off the oven.
Home automation is another important component of aging-in-place improvements; sensors and timers can monitor house systems to alert homeowners, as well as care and security providers, to potential problems.
If you have a walk-in shower, consider changing it to a zero-clearance shower—one with no threshold or step to negotiate, says Levner. It’s a good idea to add a stool as well.
Replace your toilet with a comfort-height model; it’s just a bit higher than normal—more consistent with standard dining chair seat height—and easier to sit down on and get up from.
Add some well-placed bars that you can grab on to, to steady yourself or to pull yourself upright, says Tori Goldhammer, an occupational therapist and a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), a certification given by the National Association of Home Builders.
For both kitchen and bath faucets, consider fixtures that offer the benefit of touch or hands-free operation.
For the kitchen, opt for a faucet with a pull-out spout to make cleanup and food prep more convenient. In the bath, select a faucet that can monitor temperatures to reduce the risk of burns.
Ditch the Throw Rugs
Avoid small throw rugs, as they are “big tripping hazards,” Levner says. If you insist on area rugs, look for those with a skid-resistant backing. Or better yet, go with carpeting that covers the entire room.
There are a lot of nice, new slip-resistant flooring surfaces that have more texture “, and that still looks great,” she says.
Master the Stairs
If you have a second floor, stairs are unavoidable—but they can still be made more user-friendly. Be sure they are covered in a slip-resistant material and, if possible, install a second banister on the opposite wall.
Consider locating a chair at the base or top of the stair so that people can steady themselves after the climb or descent.
Up the Lighting
Our eyesight gets worse as we age, so it’s important to improve lighting wherever possible. One of the best solutions is “layered lighting,” says Goldhammer, where a mix of ambient, task, focal, and decorative fixtures fulfil various requirements.
Don’t forget to add more lighting in tricky, often dark places such as stairways and hallways, as well as bathrooms and kitchens, where task-specific lighting will be most useful. Consider adding more light switches outside rooms and raising outlets to a more convenient height.
First-Floor Master Bedroom
“If you’re doing a major renovation, make sure there’s a bedroom on the lower level—one that could become the master bedroom in the future,” says Wid Chapman, an architect and co-author of the books Home Design in an Aging World and Unassisted Living.
The room can double as a guest room now, or even a den, Chapman suggests. But outfit the room so that at a future time, if you or your spouse can no longer negotiate stairs, you can make this ground-level room your bedroom.