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ud freontAre you thinking of making some changes to your home to make it easier to live in as you age, but just don’t know where to start? Many changes associated with implementing Universal Design features are fairly minor, inexpensive, and require little effort (i.e., changing round door knobs to lever door handles). Other changes, however, are more significant, more expensive, and may require a professional contractor. For example, a colleague of mine shared a story about her sister converting a closet on the main floor into a bathroom with a walk in shower and a laundry room in her 100 year old home in order to be able to remain in her home due to a chronic illness. Regardless of the type of change your home requires, once you make a decision to make modifications to your home, the next two steps are to decide on the extent of change you will make and to identify specific ways in which to implement these changes.

DECIDING ON WHAT HOME MODIFICATIONS TO MAKE

Once you recognize that your home or the home of a loved one is in need of modifications, whether for safety concerns or to enable them to age in place, it is important to carefully consider both the personal abilities and limitations of the person who lives in this home as well as which features in the home require attention.

An “assessment” is a comprehensive review of an individual’s mobility, sensory, environmental, and financial condition. This type of tool can assist in identifying what areas need the most attention and what home modifications might improve someone’s quality of life or make their environment more accessible and comfortable.

An assessment conducted by a professional can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to conduct and usually involves a fee. Individuals can also conduct their own assessments using free downloadable worksheets from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) web site.

LOCATING HOME MODIFICATION OR ADAPTIVE EQUIPMENT PRODUCTS

Because working with adaptive equipment and universal design features may not be an area of expertise for the contractor you hire, you may have to find some of the UD shoppingproducts yourself. When shopping for supplies and equipment, make sure to ask for Universal Design products. They may require placing a special order, so be certain to give yourself and your contractor time for delivery. If you can’t find what you want at your local retail store, you can also look online for Universal Design catalogs.

PLAN AND CARRY OUT THE INSTALLATION

  • When you have decided exactly what you want to do, and the size of the job required, assess your own or a family member’s skill to accomplish the job. If you have a modest income, you may be eligible for a home assessment/home modification program in your community or county.
  • Check with your local Area Office on Aging, senior center, independent living center, or Community Action Agency for information on home modification programs available in your community.
  • Contact your Local Community Development Department. Many cities and towns use Community Development Block Grants to assist individuals in maintaining and upgrading their homes.
  • Ask local Lenders and Banks about loan options. Some lenders offer Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM’s) that allow homeowners to turn the value of their home into cash, without having to move or make regular loan payments.

Are there things that you can do to make your home more accessible? Remember to start by assessing your home, exploring your needs and developing a plan that will allow you to age in place.

SOURCES

Livable Lingo: Our Livability Glossary. Retrieved from: https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/tool-kits-resources/info-2015/planning-and-policies.html, July 16, 2018.

 

Written by: Kathy Goins, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, goins.115@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

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Have you ever had difficulty getting in and out of your shower, turning on a faucet, reading the print on appliance controls, opening a door when you are carrying a bag of groceries, or reaching something on the top shelf of your pantry? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, perhaps you need to incorporate universal design features into your home. Universal design is a worldwide movement that is based on the idea that all environments and products should be usable by all people, regardless of their ages, sizes, or abilities. Universal design has also been referred to as “design for all,” “inclusive design,” and “life-span design.”

Universal design features can be incorporated into home modification if you are building a new home or repairing or renovating an existing home. Modifications can vary from larger projects such as installing a walk-in shower to smaller projects such as installing lever door knobs. In any case, the goal of universal design is not to entirely redesign your home but to make a range of changes or repairs that result in your home being a comfortable, user-friendly, and safer place to live.

The Ohio State University Factsheet entitled “Elements of Universal Design/ Home Modification” provides a list of challenges that individuals encounter and possible universal design solutions. Some examples include:

Limited Lifting or Flexibility

  • Install easy to turn lever or automatic (touch) faucets
  • Choose u-shaped drawer handles for cabinets and drawers that are easier to grasp
  • Consider decorative grab bars in the shower or by the toilet and tub to increase safety.
  • Replace standard light switches with rocker switches that are easier to use.

Limited Mobility

  • Install a bath/shower seat or tub with a transfer bench to ease getting in and out of the bath.
  • Use transition wedges at door thresholds to avoid tripping.
  • Give sidewalks and driveways a textured surface to increase traction and stability.
  • Use handrails on both sides of stairways.

Limited Vision

  • Purchase appliances with large print controls.
  • Install lighting near outside of walkways, stairs, and entrances.
  • Use nightlights where appropriate.
  • Install under the cabinet lights or task lighting, over kitchen counter work areas.

As you and your family change, so should your home. Keep in mind that a home with universal design feature accommodates everyone’s needs, whether they are young or old, short or tall, with physical limitations or without.

Adapted from OSU Extension Publication SS-190-02 found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/ss-fact/0190.html

Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, O.S.U. Extension

Reviewed by: Susan Zies, MS, Assistant Professor, Extension Educator, O.S.U. Extension Wood County

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