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Aging in Place, with Grace : Universal Design

Kingston Design Remodeling is excited about universal design. Universal design – design that incorporates ease of access and use, tailored to people’s needs  – is a topic that concerns us both as a company that does this kind of work, and as members of families and communities. We want our homes to be places that are warm and inviting, where special occasions can be shared. As our families have grown and changed, so do our needs of the space in our homes. We can change our homes to meet those needs.

Kingston team member Suzanne Schmitt was excited to join in the conversation about universal design. We wanted to share her thoughts with our readers. All of us have aging parents, and the elements Suzanne addresses are great places to start for someone considering remodeling with universal design in mind.

Take it away, Suzanne

“If Mamma’s not happy, nobody’s happy”. Mom’s got it good! At 88 yrs. young, she’s reasonably healthy, got a quick mind and is able to live at home with the support of loved ones and a user-friendly living space­­­­.   We looked into moving Mom to an assisted care facility, but she told us she loved the comfort and familiarity of her own home. She wasn’t inclined to to move at her age.

Mom is not alone. According to the AARP, nearly 90% of seniors say they prefer to stay in their own homes and maintain an independent lifestyle with the help of changes to their residence.   As I look around her house, it’s easy to see this would not be possible if Mom’s home was not retrofitted using Universal Design for her growing needs.

McLean Virginia -  Master Bathroom Remodel - Steam Shower - Guest Bathroom Remodel - Aging in Place Remodel - S (8)So – let’s talk about Universal Design and Aging in Place Remodeling.  Universal Design is a relatively new term to describe the use of principles and strategies that accommodate the full range of human capability. Aging gracefully in place includes allowing not only for functional needs regarding health and safety, but may also incorporate Universal Design principles that are stylish, accessible and luxuriously comfortable.

Its goal is to create easy-to-access living and work spaces that are appealing as-well-as stylish and comfortable for all ages. For example: adding a home entrance ramp that accommodates both a senior’s walker or wheelchair and also a child’s stroller. So when planning a remodel, using Universal Design encompasses the expansion of the generations. (What if Grandpa moves in and there’s a baby on the way!) This not only makes for user-friendly living, now, it also keeps a smart eye on the future. As we change, our needs change. Universal Design also expands a homes value by giving it a broader appeal were it to be offered on the market down the road.

What are some design modifications that matter most to an aging population? #1…Safety. This includes Home Security Systems, non-slip floor surfaces, easy access for emergency exit (fire escape, flat or low sloped thresholds for example). #2…The Bathroom. Full bath on main level, easy access tub or walk in shower with bench and ease-of-use fixtures, reinforced walls for grab bars, raised toilet etc.. #3…Ease of flow throughout the house. First floor living and ramps instead of steps. This includes expanded doors and hallways, open and well lit room design, raised electrical outlets, lever door handles, user-friendly kitchen appliances etc..

McLean Virginia -  Master Bathroom Remodel - Steam Shower - Guest Bathroom Remodel - Aging in Place Remodel - S (15)Remodeling to accommodate an aging population can be as simple as adding a few handyman adaptations or can be quite an undertaking when thinking about adding elevators, first floor additions, mother-in-law apartments, etc..

Given that the cost of nursing and assisted living expenses can be more than 3 times those of non-institutional long term care services, Universal Design remodeling to a loved ones’ home may weigh out to be ultimately a win-win investment. When’s the best time to think about Aging in Place? Before we need it! Planning a bathroom remodel? Why not add simple (and inexpensive) wall reinforcement now, for potential grab bars that will surely be needed someday..?

By incorporating Universal Design when we’re thinking of remodeling in our baby boomer years, Aging in Place can be a much more natural transition that allows for a beautiful quality of life as our needs and desires change and adapt to life’s circumstances. Just like we did for Mom’s house.

Thanks, Mom, I’m so glad you’re happy. Now that’s aging gracefully!”

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Home design shapes our experiences in so many ways. We’ll be talking more about universal design in upcoming weeks.

Kingston did a beautiful bathroom in McLean, Virginia that showcases some great universal design ideas: lots of open space, a seat in the shower and hand rails. Take a look at our work, and give us a call for a free consultation. Kingston can help make your home more comfortable and accessible.

McLean, VA Bath –

http://kingstonbuilders.com/project/bath-remodeling-mclean-va-s/

If you can dream it, we can build it. Call Moira at Kingston Design Remodeling *today* for your FREE Consultation!

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