Universal Design doesn’t have to scream “Old People Live Here!”

Five years ago, the White House Conference on Aging was held, as were state conferences and mini-conferences that were sponsored by various organizations like the National Association of Home Builders and AARP. This only happens every 10 years and the focus of this decade’s conference was on Boomers.

The sheer magnitude of the numbers had government agencies in a near panic.

  • 78 Million Baby Boomers began turning 60 in the year 2006!
  • 10,000 Boomers turn 55 every day.
  • A Boomer turns 50 every 7 seconds.

Stats are still flying and everyone is trying to figure out what Boomers will really be like as we age.

Will we really be healthier? Will we ever retire? Where will we want to live and how? Will we demand more services and which ones?

Universal Design is one way builders and developers are addressing the needs of aging Boomers. I found a great description of Universal Design at the AARP web site. Here’s an edited excerpt:

What makes a home “Universal”? It’s simple. Everyone can use Universal Design! It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. You could be short or tall, healthy or ill. You might have a disability, or you may be a prize-winning athlete. Because of Universal Design, people who are very different can all enjoy the same home. And that home will be there for all its inhabitants even when their needs change.

New Entrance with no steps on this addition

Common universal design features include:

  • No-step entry. At least one entrance without stairs to gain entry to the home’s main living areas.
  • One-story living. Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep all located on one level which is also barrier free. The house itself does not have to be a one-level home.
  • Wider doorways to let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move large items and furniture in and out of the house.
  • Wider hallways to allow everyone and everything to move more easily from room to room.
  • Extra floor space. Everyone feels less cramped and people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.

All of these universal design features can be accomplished using a wide variety of stylish products and designs to create beautiful homes that will work for the rest of your life. Nothing about the finished product will scream “old people live here!” if incorporated into the original building or remodeling project before the need arises!

What have you done to your home so that you can age in place?