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Four Projects for Aging in Place

Accessibility Designed for Aging in Place

"Aging in Place" is the new buzz phrase for universal accessibility design — designing a home for safety, independence and comfort no matter the age or ability of the people living in it. This means that anyone (residents or visitors) with mobility challenges or visual impairments or multigenerational households could all live in and use the home comfortably.

There are many things that can be done to a residence that can help it conform to the ideals of universal accessibility and aging in place. Low thresholds at doors, wider hallways and doorways allow scooters, walkers and wheelchairs easy access.

1. A Kitchen Within Reach

In the kitchen, multi-level base and wall cabinets allow access for all family members, those with or without mobility challenges - children, adults or seniors - to participate in meal planning, preparation and cooking. Thoughtful location of appliances - under counter microwave ovens that are drawer style - provide easier access and are safer than reaching up for a hot or heavy pot. Raised dishwashers make it easy to load and unload dishes without hurting your back and dishwasher drawers offer the opportunity to wash small loads (for singles or empty nesters) as well as comfort level for wheelchair occupants.

2. A Bathroom for Balancing

Bathrooms are prime real estate for accessibility aids. Grab bars in the shower and near the commode are a necessity that needn't be institutional in design. There are many companies that offer decorative grab bars that match their towel bars and accessories. If you feel that it is "too early"? to have grab bars installed and you're building a new home or remodeling your bath, build in the infrastructure (extra plywood in the walls) now to accept grab bar installation later. Comfort height commodes (about 2 inches taller than standard) are a real benefit, especially for people with mobility challenges and back problems. Adding a seat to a shower (whether built-in or a store bought version) and slide bar-type shower heads will feel good now and will make it easier for personal hygiene later on.

3. A Single Story Suite

A main floor master suite is easier than climbing stairs, but if a second floor suite is on your wish list then plan on adding an elevator. Since they're costly, you might want to design the elevator location now (a second floor closet above a first floor closet - built to elevator specifications) to be retrofitted later when it's needed. Electric stair lifts are also an option.

4. Lots and Lots of Lighting

Proper lighting is one easy fix that is extremely important for aging eyes. Task lighting for under wall cabinets can help in kitchens, desks and craft areas. Specialty lighting at steps and in hallways can eliminate accidents.

Many of these aging-in-place ideas are just good design concepts for any residence that will surely be appreciated by the people who live there now and for generations to come. By the way, they also add good resale value to your home, too.

By: Carole Ponzio, CAPS, CGA, Design Solutions! Port Charlotte, Fla., member of NAHB, FHBA, CDBIA and NKBA.

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"Many of these aging-in-place ideas are just good design concepts for any residence that will surely be appreciated by the people who live there now and for generations to come."

Certified Specialists

The National Association of Home Builders designates Certified Aging in Place Specialists. These industry professionals learn formulas and techniques for designing and building spaces according to specific guidelines for accessibility.

Find a Certified Aging in Place Specialist for your home remodeling project. Browse the complete directory here.

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