The idea behind universal design, and its name, is that everyone should be able to use and access a space, regardless of disabilities or limited mobility. Much of the world, including houses, apartments, and shops, have not been built in a way that that allows seniors or people with disabilities to easily use and access them. Accessible housing is hard to find, but universal design has been the guiding principle behind much of the progress made in senior living.
Universal design is a key concept in Aging in Place. Universal design is about creating accessible housing for seniors and people with disabilities. When you buy your first (or second, or third) home, you’re not thinking about whether or not you will be able to use it when you are in your 70s, 80s, or older. You’re thinking about bedrooms for your kids, backyard space, kitchen amenities, and all the things a family wants. As you get older and your mobility becomes restricted, you may need to find senior housing options that use universal design.
Senior Housing Architectural Features
There are certain architectural features that seniors and their families should look for in senior housing options:
- No-step entry and thresholds that are flush with the floor
- Doorways and halls that are wide enough to allow wheelchairs to pass
- Non-slip bathtubs and showers
- Good lighting
- Grab bars in bathrooms for both the toilet and the bath
- Walk-in baths that don’t require you to climb over the edge
- Shower seats
- Electric sockets that are higher up so that you don’t have to bend down
Few conventional homes, condos, and apartments in Canada have all these features. Families looking to find a place for a senior relative should look at senior living centers across Canada that are invested in universal design and making life easier for seniors in their own homes. The government of Canada recently gave out significant grants to a number of organizations for renovations that will improve accessibility, including the Laurel Heights Retirement Residence in Edmonton.
Universal Design in Senior Living
Whether or not you or a senior relative for whom you are looking at housing options has limited mobility, universal design is a feature you should be looking for. Thinking about the future and changing needs in regards to both care and mobility can help seniors age in place – staying where they are despite changing lifestyles.
The most important part of universal design is that it remains unobtrusive. A home should never feel clinical or like a hospital despite the presence of grab bars and other features that allow the very elderly and people with mobility issues to live independently.
The goal of universal design is to promote independence in the elderly. Everyone should be able to live independently without risking injury or losing access to a part of their home. When you or your family are looking for senior housing options, look for design features that will enable independent living without needing renovations or specialized retrofits. Universal design allows independence and dignity in your own home.