Home Designs For Life: Remodeling Ideas To Increase Safety, Function, And Accessibility In The Home.

Episode 35: Using Universal Design To Age In Place

November 23, 2022 Janet Engel, OT/L, CAPS Season 3 Episode 35
Home Designs For Life: Remodeling Ideas To Increase Safety, Function, And Accessibility In The Home.
Episode 35: Using Universal Design To Age In Place
Show Notes Transcript

As we age, the desire to stay in our own homes becomes more important. For many of us, the thought of leaving our home and community is a scary proposition.

The home environment and aging in place can be a challenge for many older people.

Fortunately, there are design strategies that can help us age in place gracefully and safely.

As we age, our future needs can change and we may need to plan for different types of care and or adding accessibility features in our homes such as a curbless shower or walk-in shower in order to create a safe and accessible design.

The Principles of Universal Design are a set of guidelines for the design of products and environments to be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or disability.

Universal design is an approach to design that takes into account the needs of all users to the greatest extent possible, regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.

Universal design features can be incorporated into any home, making it more livable for people of all ages.

Full Article: https://homedesignsforlife.com/using-universal-design-to-age-in-place/

Support the show

https://homedesignsforlife.com/

homedesignsforlife@gmail.com

Using Universal Design to Age In Place

[00:00:00] Janet: Hello everyone, and thank you for being with me today and this is Thanksgiving week and so I wanted to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. I am down in Key West with my husband and my son, and we are enjoying some time here, fishing and just relaxing. So I hope that everyone is also celebrating their holiday in a way that they want to and that they are able to spend time with family and friends.

[00:00:34] Janet: Today's podcast is going to be on using universal design to age in place. So first I am gonna go into what are universal design features or principles. So the principles of universal design are a set of guidelines for the design of products and environments to be accessible [00:01:00] to everyone regardless of ability.

[00:01:03] Janet: Or disability Universal design is an approach to design that takes into account the needs of all users to the greatest extent possible. Regardless of age or circumstance, universal design features can be incorporated into any home, making it more livable for everyone. So some common features of universal design include wider doorways and hallways to accommodate people that may be using a wheelchair or a walker.

[00:01:40] Janet: Having lever handles on doors and faucets who are bathroom fixtures, non-slip flooring, good lighting, easy to reach storage. Multi-level counters in your bathroom and kitchen, perhaps having automated window treatments [00:02:00] and having smart home features. So these are just a few things that can make your home.

[00:02:08] Janet: More friendly for everyone. So now I'm going to discuss what is the difference between universal design and aging in place design. So as I just said, universal design is about making the home more livable for everyone, regardless of your age or ability. Now aging in place, design is specifically making changes to the home that is going to make the home safer and more comfortable for older adults.

[00:02:46] Janet: So there are some similarities between the two concepts. They both emphasize the importance of accessibility and both strive to make living spaces more comfortable and convenient. [00:03:00] But there are also some key differences. So with universal design, as I said, it's more concerned with ensuring that everyone can use the space in the same way.

[00:03:11] Janet: This means that things like door handles and light switches need to be easy to use for everyone, not just for older adults. Aging in place design, on the other hand, can involve things like installing grab bars. Adding more LED lighting in the bathroom and kitchen and hallways, especially adding task lighting in the kitchen, in the bathroom, because those are the two areas where we work the most and where function really matters.

[00:03:45] Janet: Adding technology in the home to improve communication both internally and remotely, and also widening doorways to accommodate wheelchair users or people using walkers.[00:04:00] So which one is right for you? Well, it depends on your needs and preferences personally. I think a combination of universal design and aging in place.

[00:04:13] Janet: Design is the way to go for most older adults. Definitely if you're building a home or remodeling your home, regardless of your age, you should be incorporating universal design features to make your home not only more livable and more comfortable, but it's also going to have better resale value. And now, Older, let's say.

[00:04:36] Janet: I would say. After the age of 40, cuz you'd be surprised to hear that aging in place really starts at the age of 40. Most people think it's maybe like 60, but it really isn't. So if you're 50, I would definitely be thinking about how are you going to make your home friendly for aging in that [00:05:00] home so that you do not have to make changes at the drop of a dime.

[00:05:06] Janet: Or after an accident has happened, or some kind of diagnosis that changes your life. So ease of use and aging in place. So what is ease of use? Ease of use is choosing products and services that are, of course, easy to use. And so some of these tips are looking for products that have an easy to.

[00:05:32] Janet: Handle. This is especially important for things like toothbrushes can openers and writing utensils, and of course eating utensils. Choosing products with large buttons or controls. This will make them easier to use if you have arthritis or other conditions that affect your dexterity or your fine motor coordination.

[00:05:55] Janet: Avoid products with small parts. These can be difficult to [00:06:00] handle and easy to lose. Also, consider products that offer extra features that can help you. For example, many phones now have large buttons and talking caller id. And ask for help when you need it. Don't be afraid to ask a salesperson for assistance or even neighbors and friends and don't feel rushed to make a decision to purchase product that you may not know enough of or that you're not ready to purchase.

[00:06:26] Janet: Also, check the return policy to make sure that you can return it if that product isn't working for you. and choose products with instructions because this can help you learn how to use them properly. So now we're gonna talk about comfort and aging in place. So comfort is one of the biggest topics that we cover when it comes to aging in place design.

[00:06:53] Janet: So we wanna make sure that our home is not only accessible and functional, but we want it to be comfortable. [00:07:00] So some simple changes that can make a big difference in adapting your home to better suit your needs is installing handrails in the hallways and bathrooms, and of course installing handrails on your steps.

[00:07:18] Janet: And if you already have one handrail, which most homes should, you want to make sure that you add a second one on the other side because it's important to have a handrail on each side. . And of course I said widening doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. So another big thing is installing grab bars in the shower and near the toilet.

[00:07:43] Janet: So remember, grab bars. You don't have to choose those ugly silver grab bars that you see in hotels or restaurants. Those are the ones that they place because they have to, according to ADA guidelines. But there are [00:08:00] many companies like Ponte Giulio that make grab bars that are really beautiful.

[00:08:07] Janet: They're seamless. You'd never know they're a grab bar. And companies are even creating finishes in like black and brass that match better the decor that you may already have in your bathroom or that you want to create in your bathroom. And are going to be more contemporary so you don't have to settle for that ugly big grab bar that we're used to seeing.

[00:08:37] Janet: Putting non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower is a another way to prevent falls in the bathroom and while you're taking a shower, keeping a clear path from the bed to the bathroom is key. As we get older, we need to use the bathroom more frequently, sometimes two, three [00:09:00] times a night. And so you wanna make sure that you have a clear path so that you're not putting yourself at a risk for fall when there isn't enough light in the room and you're kind of sleepy.

[00:09:12] Janet: And so now there are boxes or perhaps shoes something. In your way and can easily create a trip hazard for you. So another thing you can do is create a main level master bedroom and full bathroom. Okay? That way you're not forced to go up and down the stairs multiple times a day. . So  also paying attention to lighting both inside and outside your home.

[00:09:40] Janet: Lighting is something that is key to aging in place. It can prevent accidents. It makes your home more beautiful. It can make your home more comfortable. And when we're talking about lighting, we're talking about adding task lighting ambient lighting. We're also talking about [00:10:00] natural lighting. How much

[00:10:02] Janet: daylight is coming into your home, which we need to take advantage of natural daylighting as much as we can. Number one, it's free. Number two, it's going to save you money. Daylight is also the best light for the human eye to be able to see in, so we really wanna take advantage of natural light. It also affects our mood, so keeping the shades closed is not a good idea.

[00:10:30] Janet: We also need to account for glare. So when I talk about daylighting, so daylighting is great, but it can also bring in glare into your home, into your living spaces, and so having proper window treatments that are going to eliminate or reduce glare. Is also very important. And now they're making lots of window treatments that have the sheer [00:11:00] or have the ability to either filter light or they have the room darkening.

[00:11:08] Janet: So there are lots of options available for us that are also really beautiful and come in many different styles. So there's lots to choose from out there. Make sure that you work with an interior designer that knows what he or she is doing, and if you work with one that has a CAPS certification, then they're going to be more knowledgeable about how to design your home so that it incorporates universal design features and also incorporates independent living strategies

[00:11:42] Janet: all right, so we are going to move on to safety and aging in place. So one of the most important things to consider when we're. Wanting to age in place is safety. So there are few key areas to focus on in [00:12:00] order to make your home as safe as possible. First, look at your entryways. Make sure that your doors and windows are well lit and easily visible from the street.

[00:12:13] Janet: Second, take a look at your floors. As I've said in other podcasts, carpet can be a trip hazard, so if you have it in your home, make sure that it's firmly attached to the floor and not bunched up. Also, if you have high pile carpeting, consider taking it out and replacing it with a low maintenance flooring such as luxury vinyl plank.

[00:12:36] Janet: Also known as LVT or something comparable. So high pile carpeting. Another reason why I don't like it is because it's going to attract dust and just everything that's in the environment, which is also going to affect the air quality in your house. And. Ba, let's be realistic. You can't clean carpet.

[00:12:59] Janet: The way that [00:13:00] you can clean a floor, you can vacuum a floor and then you can mop it. With carpet, you're only gonna be vacuuming it, and then every once in a while you're going to be cleaning it. So it's very important to have good air quality in your home, especially as we age. Because as we age, we have diseases like COPD, which stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

[00:13:26] Janet: That is more common in older people, even if you never smoked. So having good air quality. It's just very important to being healthy as we age. So next we're going to take a look at the kitchen. So the kitchen is one of the most common places where accidents happen, so it's also important to make our kitchen safe, accessible, and functional.

[00:13:53] Janet: So some of the things that we can do is install drawer organizers to make fi finding items easier. [00:14:00] Another is installing LED strip lighting inside of drawers and underneath cabinets. So this now we have the LED strip lighting, which is great for lighting the inside of compartments, and also we can use it underneath the cabinets.

[00:14:21] Janet: So Another is installing LED strip lighting inside of drawers and underneath cabinets. So this now we have the LED strip lighting, which is great for lighting the inside of compartments, and also we can use it underneath the cabinets.

[00:14:21] Janet: So this can serve as a way to have wayfinding in your home. So let's say. Eight o'clock at night and you don't wanna have all the lights on, but the LED strip lighting is always lighting your kitchen. So it makes it much easier to know where you are in your space and automatically makes your space safer.

[00:14:44] Janet: And it also makes it really pretty. And it's very cheap and very easy to install. So another thing that I'm a big fan of is having a multi-level counter in your kitchen. So this is a great way to make So another thing that I'm a big fan of is having a multi-level counter in your kitchen. So  this is a great way [00:15:00] to make completing tasks like meal prep, much easier for everyone to use, not just. Older people, but it can also serve young children well, where they can sit down and they can participate in whatever activities are going on in the kitchen.

[00:15:20] Janet: And it looks really pretty too. And this is something else that you can do in your bathroom, which I'll talk about in a few minutes. Lighting again, the kitchen is a key place to install task lighting and also using natural light to light the kitchen. And remember that our vision deteriorates as we get older.

[00:15:44] Janet: So by the time we're 60 years old, we need three times as much light to be able to see what a person in their twenties can see. . So don't underestimate the need to have good lighting. [00:16:00] So  now we're gonna talk about the bathroom. So  of course, everyone knows that is another area where accidents happen.

[00:16:07] Janet: So  we wanna make sure that we have good lighting in there too. We want natural light. Not all bathrooms have windows. If you don't have a window, you wanna make sure that you have overhead lighting in the shower, not just in your bathroom area, because we need adequate light in the shower stall.

[00:16:30] Janet: Now you also want task lighting, and that's another place where you can install LED lighting. In your cabinets, in your drawers, and also underneath the cabinets so that again, you have way finding and you want to have good lighting because. doing grooming tasks and hygiene tasks and you're getting dressed.

[00:16:55] Janet: And so another thing that I always recommend is putting a chair in your bathroom if [00:17:00] you have the room so that you can get sit while you're undressing and while you're dressing. This will minimize fatigue. It will also allow you to take your medications while. In your bathroom, if you have a multi-level counter, then having a chair at the lower counter height is going to make it much easier for you to do your hair, do your makeup, take your medication, and again, it looks really pretty.

[00:17:28] Janet: It looks like a high end design. Also you wanna have your electrician install at least two GFCI outlets for safety. And one of them should be by the toilet. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit indicator and in places where you have water, it is very important to have a GFCI outlet to prevent electrical shock.

[00:17:56] Janet: Another feature that I like in [00:18:00] bathrooms is having an LED back lit mirror, and this will give you better lighting for putting on your makeup or completing personal hygiene. And it will also take away the need to have overhead light. So it will save you money and it looks really contemporary and it gives a really nice light, and you're not going to have to be able, you're not going to have to replace your lighting because  lighting, LED lighting can last up to 25 years.

[00:18:30] Janet: So walk-in tubs. I am not a big fan of walk-in tubs. The reason is, People don't realize that walk in tubs have a narrow opening. So if you have difficulty with transferring, it is going to be much harder for you to transfer into walk in tub. Not only is the opening narrow, but there's usually a lip of about five inches, so automatically that's gonna [00:19:00] make it more dangerous for you to transfer in if you have a high threshold

[00:19:06] Janet: so So walk-in tubs. I am not a big fan of walk-in tubs. The reason is, People don't realize that walk in tubs have a narrow opening. So if you have difficulty with transferring, it is going to be much harder for you to transfer into walk in tub. Not only is the opening narrow, but there's usually a lip of about five inches, so automatically that's gonna make it more dangerous for you to transfer in if you have a high threshold So something else that people don't realize is that the walk in tub it fills up with water, right? Well, when you are done taking a bath, you have to wait for all of that water to drain before you can open the door to get out of the tub. So now you've spent a lot more time in the tub, which showering or bathing, that is one of the most taxing tasks that we do.

[00:19:34] Janet: Now you're also getting cold in there. It's uncomfortable, so it's also uses a lot of water. So  it's not the best option for most people, and they are very expensive to install, and they also take up a lot of room in your bathroom. The flooring. We wanna make sure that we have non-skid flooring and that it is also low maintenance [00:20:00] flooring.

[00:20:00] Janet: So So it's not the best option for most people, and they are very expensive to install, and they also take up a lot of room in your bathroom. The flooring. We wanna make sure that we have non-skid flooring and that it is also low maintenance flooring.

[00:20:00] Janet: So when I talk about low maintenance, I'm talking about avoiding, tile with grout lines. So the one thing that grout lines do that makes it better is that it increases friction so your fall risk goes down. But the bad part about grout lines is that grout. Number one, it absorbs bodily fluids, and so it can create smells.

[00:20:28] Janet: It also breaks down, so it has to be redone, and so that's where it creates more maintenance. , it can also get really dirty. So increases friction so your fall risk goes down. But the bad part about grout lines is that grout. Number one, it absorbs bodily fluids, and so it can create smells.

[00:20:39] Janet: It also breaks down, so it has to be redone, and so that's where it creates more maintenance. , it can also get really dirty. So if you do have ground lines, you wanna make sure that you choose a grout color that is on the darker side so that you don't have to spend as much time scrubbing it or using products in order to, clean the ground.

[00:20:39] Janet: Okay. . Now you want to make sure that you create color contrast in your bathroom. So color contrast is extremely important to aging in place. We can reduce our fall risk in the bathroom and in our homes in general just by. Creating a [00:21:00] design that incorporates color contrast. So if you heard my podcast on visual perception, you would have learned that our visual perception changes as we age.

[00:21:12] Janet: And so there are also colors that the aging eye sees better then they did when so that there are also colors that the aging eye sees better, such as red. Orange and gold. There are colors that we don't see as well as we're aging greens and blues and also pastels, and so we want to avoid using those colors.

[00:21:34] Janet: As the predominant design in our bathroom. We also wanna avoid using only one color. Like for example, if you only have white or you only have neutral colors, where you have a combination of white and beige, that it's also going to make it harder for you to distinguish one surface from. So we wanna add color contrast and [00:22:00] using colors that have more saturation.

[00:22:03] Janet: Like if you love blue, the way that I do, you want to use perhaps like a dark blue, but don't make your room too dark. Cuz if you use dark colors predominantly, especially in a small space, it's going to make your room darker. So you've gotta keep all of that in consideration, and that's why it's important to use an interior designer that is CAP certified, so that he or she knows how to design and incorporate independent living strategies that are going to make your home more livable, more accessible, and more functional.

[00:22:42] Janet: So now we're gonna talk about the bedroom. So the bedroom is a place where you'll be spending a lot of time, so it's important to make sure that it's also comfortable and safe. So making sure that your bed is at a comfortable height and that there is enough space [00:23:00] for you to move around. Another thing that I like is to add a bench or a chair by your bed so that you can dress in a seated position

[00:23:10] Janet: if you have a nightstand, make sure that it is sturdy and that there's nothing on it that could fall and hurt you. If you have a hard time transferring in and out of bed, you may wanna consider installing a bed rail. At the foot  at the head of your bed. And so this bed rail, it's usually only about one foot or one and a half feet wide, and it helps you get in and out of bed.

[00:23:35] Janet: So it's not gonna restrict. Your ability to get in and out the way that a bed rail works for children so that they don't fall outta bed. This is simply to help you transfer in and outta bed so that you don't need the assistance of another person or. So that you're more independent when you're transferring, they're inexpensive.

[00:23:59] Janet: Usually you [00:24:00] can find one for less than $50 and they can make a huge difference in your level of independence and safety. So in conclusion, making your home safe or aging in place, it doesn't have to be difficult and it doesn't have to be expensive. By just making a few simple changes, you can make your home much safer and comfortable so that you can live in that home for many years to come and basically transition your home so that it's a, creating a home for.

[00:24:34] Janet: So now I'm gonna move on to security, which is different from safety. So security and aging in place. Security is one of the most important things to consider. So as we age, we become more vulnerable to crime, both as victims and as targets. More than half of the people aging in place are women. So there are few things that you can do [00:25:00] to keep yourself.

[00:25:01] Janet: Number one, keep your doors and your windows locked even when you're at home. Install a security system. Get to know your neighbors and keep an eye out for each other. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut instinct. Keep a list of emergency contacts handy, including the police, fire department, and your doctor or hospital.

[00:25:27] Janet: And have a plan in place in case of an emergency such as a fire or a break-in. And lastly, consider taking a self-defense class or exercising regularly. Remember, when we exercise, not only does it reduce our fall risk, but we also get stronger and we're healthier and we have a better reaction time, and we also think more clearly.

[00:25:51] Janet: All right, well I am going to move on to visitability and aging in place. So what is [00:26:00] visitability? So Visitability is designing your home so that it is more accessible and you can welcome people of all ages. And regardless of their ability or circumstances. So for example, for myself I'm in my mid forties and my mom and my mother-in-law are both in their seventies.

[00:26:24] Janet: So I want my home to be visitable so that it's easy for them to spend time there and it's also safe for them and comfortable. So for example, I have a main level bedroom. And full bathroom that they can use so they never have to use the stairs. I make sure that it's well lit that I don't have throw rugs in that bedroom and that the bathroom is accessible for them.

[00:26:52] Janet: So as we age, many of us start to experience changes in our mobility, our vision, [00:27:00] and our hearing. And so these things can make it hard for other people to use our space. So making your home more visitable is going to help you include your aging parents or someone that may have A disability or may have a harder time moving around.

[00:27:23] Janet: Perhaps they have low vision, so you're gonna make your home more accessible for everyone. So some of these things are, as I've said earlier, widening doorways to at least 32 inches and hallways as well, adding a no step entrance. So having. At least one no step or zero step entrance is into your home. Is key to making your home more visitable.

[00:27:49] Janet: Installing lever handles on drawers and faucets, adding grab bars in your bathroom. Perhaps building a ramp to the front or the back door. [00:28:00] If you don't have a zero step entry, add lighting throughout your home. This is the easiest way to make your home safer is adding lighting, more lighting into your home.

[00:28:12] Janet: And as I've said in other episodes, most homes are under lit, so adding lighting is gonna make your home safer, and it's also going to make it more be. And lastly, you can consider installing a stair lift or an elevator. Elevators are becoming much more popular now and more affordable. There are different types of elevators that are available for home use, and you can plan to install an elevator in your home for future use by simply stacking two closets.

[00:28:48] Janet: And that will create a shaft for an elevator. So maybe 10 years from now, you don't wanna navigate stairs anymore, or you don't [00:29:00] want to install a stair lift in your home. Well, if you have two closets that are stacked, that is a shaft for the elevator and it makes it way cheaper to install an elevator for future use.

[00:29:14] Janet: So now let's talk about beauty and aesthetic design and aging in place. So there is a growing movement in the design world towards what is known as aging in place design. This type of design takes into account the fact that we are living longer and want to be able to stay in our homes as we age.

[00:29:39] Janet: Instead of moving into assisted living facilities or nursing. , one of the most important aspects of aging in place design is comfort. As I mentioned earlier, we want our homes to be comfortable. We want. Them to be places where we can relax and enjoy our golden years. So we need to take things into [00:30:00] account like ergonomics, acoustics, and lighting.

[00:30:04] Janet: Another important aspect of aging in place design is aesthetics. So just because we're getting older doesn't mean we want our homes to look like hospitals or nursing homes. We still want them to look beautiful and we want them to be stylish, and we want them to reflect our personal. And finally, aging in place.

[00:30:24] Janet: Design must also incorporate safety, accessibility, and function. So as we age, we become more susceptible to falls and other accidents. Therefore, it is important to make sure that our homes are safe places for us to live. Aging in place. Design is a relatively new concept, but it is one that is quickly gaining popularity.

[00:30:50] Janet: As more and more people reach retirement age, they are looking for ways to stay in their homes and maintain their independence. [00:31:00] If you're considering aging in place in your current home, please consider hiring a certified aging in place specialist to help you with home modifications. So who are certified aging in place?

[00:31:14] Janet: Specialists? Well, they are professionals who have been specifically trained to help seniors age in place safely and comfortably. A CAPS certified professional has the skills and knowledge to assess the unique needs of seniors and make recommendations for products and services that can help them live. independently

[00:31:39] Janet: They also have a network of resources and contacts that they can connect seniors with if needed. So if you or your loved one is interested in aging in place, working with a CAPS certified professional can help ensure that your home is safe and comfortable and that you have the resources and support that you [00:32:00] need to age independently.

[00:32:02] Janet: So how do you find a certified? Aging in place person. Well, if you go on the National Association of Home Builders website, which is also known as N A H B and it's n a H b.com, you can find a directory of CAP certified professionals in your area. Also, if you call your local Home Builders Association, they can.

[00:32:30] Janet: Connect you with a CAPS certified professional. Now if you're considering getting this certification, the way you go about it is also through the National Association of Home Builders. They have a list of classes, so CAPS certification is divided into three different courses, and you can get it in as soon as three days.

[00:32:55] Janet: This certification. So there are all day courses, usually from eight to [00:33:00] five, and you will learn all about how to communicate with older adults, how to market your services, and you're going to learn about how to modify your. A home to help people age in place. You're gonna learn a lot about products and you're going to have different case studies where you will.

[00:33:25] Janet: Just troubleshoot. How would you modify a space, for example, someone that has Parkinson's disease, or it could be a young person that, let's say they play sports and they had an accident and now they have a broken leg and they can't navigate the stairs, so they have to use the main level. So how would you modify a home for a 16 year old who is using crutches or is in a wheelchair for let's say three months to six months?

[00:33:55] Janet: So it is a great education whether you wanna do this for a [00:34:00] living or you want to learn about how to modify your own home, or, for example, modify the home of your mom or your dad, or loved one. So this concludes our episode on using universal design to age in place. Thank you for listening, and again, happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

[00:34:24] Janet: I hope everyone is having a beautiful week, and thank you so much for joining me, and please tune in next time.