Aging In Place and In Style With Universal Design

June is a month of many exciting beginnings. As flocks of graduation caps fly into the sky, brides and grooms join hands to start a new life, and we look to a warm summer ahead, many of us who have seen their fair share of life start thinking about how to plan the coming chapters.

Whether you are inclined to remain in your current home and simply remodel, or have recently purchased a new home, you may want to incorporate what is called Universal Design to your renovation plan. Universal Design is a commitment to accommodate all physical, sensory and psychological abilities and limitations. Universal Design is not perceived as only for the old. It allows you to prepare your home in style for flexibility in the coming years. Think of it as for after a long day of tennis, ,a hot, sunny eighteen holes of golf, or when you feel too beat to bother climbing up the stairs. Flexibility is preparation for the unknown, and Universal Design is the architectural philosophy you need to stretch out and make the most of your golden years.

Universal Design not only allows you the potential of aging in place and in style, but will also help with resale value. As more Baby Boomers approach and enter their later years, the quality of living space becomes more crucial in their decision-making. We are looking at a new “sliver” generation that has redefined every stage of their lives; they are engaged, passionate, and always active. They demand homes that not only look stylish, but can also be flexible to face challenges of mobility, vision and other age related issues later.

With that in mind, here are some tips to fuel these broad ideas.

Attached/Detached “Granny units”

Check with your city for regulations on putting a “granny unit” in the backyard or on expanding your home by adding a Universal Design unit on the ground floor of the current home. The main house can be rented out or offered to the younger generations while you stay in the far more comfortable Universal-Designed unit.

Open Floor Plans and Framing

The stylish trend of the open floor plan and “less is more” concepts not only offer more space and integration of everyday living, but can also be adapted when life challenges us with mobility or age-related barriers.

Even if you choose not to follow a Universal Design, it is a good investment to place additional studs and backings while remodeling to allow for some future Universal Design features. After all, you can never have too many options.

Natural and LED light

Natural lighting has been touted for its many aesthetic and health benefits. It increases productivity and comfort, as well as provides healthy mental and visual stimulation.

Installing skylights and adding windows let the light shine in. Depending on the orientation of the openings, some can provide warmth to the home. Where you cannot bring in natural light, new LED task lights, combined with CFL ambient lighting, provide the extra light that helps prevent accidents and falls while saving lots of energy.

Kitchen and Laundry

Proximity and accessibility are two major elements for some daily chores. Hands-free touch or sensor controlled faucets, induction cooktops, roll-out shelves and front-loading washers and dryers make everyday life chores easier on everyone. That is a Universal Design you would want at any age.


The hottest 2014 bathroom trends include control systems to pre-set water pressure and temperature, stylish walk-in tubs and handgrips, wall-mounted toilets that allow adjustment for height, and door-less and curb-less showers. All these trendy and stylish designs not only add value to your home, but also add accessibility that make it part of Universal Design.


Keep paths as level or as gently inclined as possible. Outdoor kitchen and lighting in the landscape can also be designed to incorporate universal design. Downsizing to smaller yards with lower maintenance requirements can also help with our current water shortage crisis.

Many things grow better with age—cheese, wine, and so too with life. But like all walks of life, it needs to be planned and prepared for the best result.. From good design is born great value, and a little planning can go a long way. As such, the home that you will live in to enjoy your later years should be your first priority. Perhaps soon we will see a new kind of generation of our older, wiser men and women, whose independence and quality of life has only risen with their years, zipping about in convertibles and living the universal life.