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Shhhhhhh! Baby boomers are aging, living longer, and surviving permanently disabling conditions. By the year 2030, one in four people in the Denver metropolitan area will be aged 60+. AARP surveys repeatedly indicate that people want to remain in their own homes. It is logical to assume that the baby boomers will want their home spaces to be built or modified using the principles of universal design.
What is universal design? A universal design feature in a home is any component of a house that can be used by everyone regardless of their level of ability or disability. For example, standard but wider doors, eliminating steps at the entrances, and a barrier free shower stall are design features that can be used by everyone.
One of the key universal design features to consider in a home is creating a stepless entrance. There are several benefits to a stepless entrance including making it easier to move furniture and appliances in and out, rolling baby strollers and bicycles, bringing in groceries and packages, safer in wet or icy conditions, easier to clear snow and ice, and easier than steps to repair and maintain.
Other key universal design features to consider are the characteristics of color and lighting. The benefits of color contrast between floor surfaces and trim allow easy recognition of the junction between floor surfaces. Contrast between stair treads and risers increase the safety on stairs and lessen the risk of falls. Emphasis on lighting at the stairs, entrances, and task lighting may be ambient, focused, or variable depending on the demands of the task.
There are just a few examples of universal design features in a home that can be used by persons of all ages, sizes, and abilities. For more information about re-designing your existing home or building a new home based on the principles of universal design, contact:
Nancy Dillinger, OTR, SCEM, ATP
AOTA Environmental Modification in SCEM
The Center For Universal Design, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 2006.
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