Incorporating the principles of Universal Design, a design philosophy that allows homes to work for all ages and abilities, in a remodel can make an enormous difference in how homeowners can use their homes through every stage of life.
Appliances: Place at comfort height and locations. To forego bending down to dook or clean, mount appliances on the wall or in drawers. Place dishwasher drawers near the sink for easy cleanup.Mount wall ovens at shoulder height so you won’t have to bend down.
Countertops: Lower countertops accommodate users that are seated. A pull-out drawer at a lower height is also helpful. Opt for smooth, easy to clean countertops. Consider surfaces that you can put hot pots directly on as well as cut on. You might also insert a butcher block to cut on.
Cabinets and Shelving: Mount upper cabinets lower to make it easier to reach high shelves, 14 inches from the countertop to the bottom of the cabinet instead of the standard 18 inches. Pull-out drawers are better for cabinets for storage since you don’t have to crouch down. Plan tall storage for easier access to items used most. This might be a freestanding hutch or a pantry with shelves that pull out and retract easily.
Hardware: A D-ring or loop pulls on cabinets are better than knobs for one’s decreasing grip strength. Hardware with shiny metallic surfaces are easier to see than black.
Lighting: As adults age, more light is needed to see properly. LED lighting takes up little space and can be placed exactly where needed, such as the interior of cabinets and drawers and beneath the lip of countertops. Motion-activated lighting in cabinet storage is also very helpful.
Flooring: Solid rubber and vinyl flooring are rugged and easy on the back, not slippery and easy to clean. Wood is not always easy to clean and is prone to water damage.
For more questions regarding Universal Design, e-mail Ray Floyd, Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Summarized From Remodeling Special Report September 2014