Defining Design: Aging-in-Place vs. Universal Design

posted in: Industry Articles | 0

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

Here is how to distinguish between the two concepts

Aging-in-place design is most often used for individuals requiring home modifications in order to 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 born in the U.S. from 1946 to 1964 are now starting to reach retirement age. Many of these “baby boomers” 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 be noticeable. Some examples include installing grab bars in shower stalls and putting in a ramp to replace steps.

Universal design is applicable to all home owners, regardless of age or ability. It is useful to meet 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 are transparent and not immediately identifiable in a home.

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

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

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

Article reprinted with permission from the NAHB