Universal design is becoming increasingly important as our population ages, and keeping these principles in mind when remodelling a house is paramount to keeping you and your loved ones safe – now and in the future. It’s also becoming more important when it comes to resale value. A house that is accessible to people of all ages and abilities will appeal to more people, and if done right, could get you a higher selling price. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Anything you can do to automate items and therefore limit having to get up and down will be greatly appreciated by those with mobility issues.
- Automate lighting systems so that you can control individual lights from inside and outside the home.
- Consider automated window treatments that can be controlled remotely. Opening and closing the blinds while sitting on the couch or lying in bed isn’t just convenient, it adds a sense of luxury.
- Many HVAC systems can now be adjusted by remote control, meaning your ideal temperature can be achieved with the click of a button.
If you’re remodelling a bathroom there are a few things to keep in mind for accessibility purposes.
- A curbless shower reduces tripping hazards, making it easier for those with limited mobility to get in and out of the shower.
- Custom shower benches provide a comfortable place to sit for those who have difficulty standing.
- Comfort height toilets aren’t something people tend to give a lot of thought too, but those that have a seat about 17″-19” off the floor make it easier for people to get up and down.
- Grab bars add safety and security in showers, and contrary to popular belief they can be pretty stylish. Kohler, for example, offers a wide variety of options to match their other accessories.
Ageing in place can be made a lot easier by making some simple changes in the kitchen.
- Pull out drawers in the base cabinetry means you don’t have to lean over and reach to the back of cabinets to access items.
- Open shelving means easy access to everyday items.
- Make appliances more accessible by placing microwaves below the counter, using wall-mounted ovens, and even fridge drawers.
- Install a single lever or touchless faucet to make it easier for those with arthritis and other difficulties.
- Solid surface countertops such as Quartz are preferable as they are easier to clean and maintain than other options.
- Make sure there’s appropriate task lighting directed at all work surfaces, and keep outlets at easy to reach heights.
Not everyone is going to be able to put an elevator in their home due to budget and size constraints, however, for those who can manage it, an elevator can be a worthwhile investment – particularly in multi-level homes. It may seem a little bourgeois, but in the right circumstances, they can provide a good return on investment.
General Universal Design Tips
Throughout the house, there are a lot of things that can be done to make life easier for people ageing in place.
- Use levers instead of doorknobs throughout the house.
- Widen doorways to make them more accessible to those who use walkers or are in wheelchairs. Also, consider pocket doors to create more space.
- Minimize the number of floor transitions wherever possible to reduce tripping hazards.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpet as it can be difficult for those with limited mobility.
- Raise electrical switches and lower light switches so that they’re easier for everyone to access.