A new home design center recently opened in The Oaks mall. Last week I toured the center looking at a majestic Jacuzzi tub, lovely bathroom fixtures, high-end appliances and solid wood kitchen cabinets.
Approaching the salesperson to compliment him on his beautiful store, I asked him if the company incorporates any elements of Universal Design. He directed me to their corporate website, which had no mention of the principle.
The design center is not alone—in fact, they are in the majority.
“Not incorporating elements of Universal Design in remodels is unfortunately quite common,” said Holly Spiegel, senior design consultant at Adaptive Design Associates in Westlake Village.
“Many consumers are unaware of the concept,” Spiegel continued. “Universal Design is intended to simplify everyday life by making products and using designs to create comfortable and functional environments for everyone, regardless of age or ability. Many designers overlook this important concept in remodeling plans or incorporate only the simplest of elements.”
Traditional homes are designed for average families and can limit the independence and functionality of some residents. Most single-family homes built today, and certainly those built 20 to 30 years ago, do not contain Universal Design elements.
As we age and as our homes age, updates should include Universal Design features.
Universal Design concepts in a kitchen remodel take into consideration people of all heights and ages. Remodel elements may include kitchen counters of varying heights and a microwave placed at countertop height. These changes allow a 10-year old or an 80-year-old to comfortably navigate the kitchen.
Other kitchen modifications assist those with physical disabilities. Lever faucets are easier to turn off and on for weak hands.
Built-in knee space under the sink can be used by a family member who may need to sit while washing dishes. Large roll-out drawers make it easier for those with limited reach. Wide doorways facilitate the use of a wheelchair or walker as well as make it easier to move in that new refrigerator or stove.
Bathroom remodels utilizing Universal Design concepts include a curbless shower with adjustable hand-held controls.
After a recent Achilles tendon tear, Peter, an avid runner now on crutches, was happy his remodel included both.
Floors and bathtubs with nonslip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. Handrails and grab bars in bathrooms are great for young and old. Lever door handles and rocker light switches support those with poor hand strength but are also good when your arms are full of laundry or towels.
The market for homes with Universal Design features that allow residents to “age in place,” or remain in their home as they age, will increase.
Most boomers say they want to age in place. In the next 10 years, 20 percent of the population will be over the age of 65 and the over-85 population will triple. Making home updates in our 50s and 60s will allow us to live safely and independently for many years to come.
If a kitchen or bath remodel is in your future, you may want to consider using a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). A CAPS professional has been trained in the unique needs of the older adult population.
Rather than offering a product, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists offer a service, such as designing a kitchen or bath remodel with UD design elements that are also aesthetically pleasing.
To find a CAPS professional in your area go to http:// www.nahb.org/directory. aspx? directoryID= 1415 and choose CAPS under designation.
Living with kids, grandkids, an aging loved one or a boomer with a short-term injury, Universal Design features allow you to enjoy your home as your needs and lifestyle change.