Oklahoma State Home Builders Association

An Affiliate of the National Home Builders Association

Defining Design: Aging-in-Place Versus Universal Design

 
Posted on October 29, 2012 by Mike Means

By Mike Means, OSHBA

Families looking to customize their homes for their personal needs and comfort have a widevariety of products and design elements to choose from. Two of these concepts, aging-in-placeand universal design, are both focused on making a home more comfortable for individuals ofdifferent abilities.

Here is how to distinguish between the two concepts.

Aging-in-place design is most often used for individuals requiring home modifications in orderto be able to safely and comfortably use their home as their physical abilities change over time.

There is a high demand for aging-in-place remodeling, as the more than 76 million people bornin the U.S. from 1946 to 1964 are now starting to reach retirement age. Many of these "babyboomers" are looking at remodeling so they can stay in their homes and neighborhoods.

With aging-in-place, the design is convenient and comfortable but the modifications may benoticeable. Some examples include installing grab bars in shower stalls and putting in a ramp toreplace steps.

Universal design is applicable to all home owners, regardless of age or ability. It is useful tomeet the needs of many, from a multigenerational family to first time home owners.

Universal design augments traditional design by incorporating elements that offer comfort,convenience and ease of use. However, unlike aging-in-place, universal design elements aretransparent and not immediately identifiable in a home.

Some examples of universal design include choosing counters with contrasting borders toincrease visibility for home owners whose vision may deteriorate over time, making hallwayswider to accommodate strollers or relatives who might use a wheelchair, and building a steplessporch entry that will increase access and convenience without compromising aesthetics.

An additional component of universal design is adaptability. A home being built with universaldesign might include added blocking inside the shower stall walls so that a grab bar can be easilyinstalled at a future date, a common aging-in-place update.

Home building and remodeling professionals who have earned the Certified Aging-in PlaceSpecialist (CAPS), Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) or Graduate Master Remodeler (GMR)designations have received extensive training specific to the remodeling industry, and will beable to advise you on universal design and aging-in-place components to fit your needs.

To learn more about universal design or aging-in-place, or to find a home building or remodelingprofessional in the Oklahoma area, contact www.oshba.org

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