Universal design -- age gracefully, safely in your own home
An increasing number of retirement plans now include the retiree’s desire to remain in his or her own home as they grow older. It’s estimated that Americans age 65 and older will number 55 million by 2020 — many of them are choosing to remain at home instead of moving to a retirement community.
According to a survey cited by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 89 percent of people age 50 and older desire to live in their current homes indefinitely.
However, not all homes today meet the changing needs of aging adults or those with limited mobility. Remodelers are continually searching for ideas to meet the needs of aging homeowners.
Thanks to building concept called “universal design,” many older adults are now living more safely, comfortably and independently in their homes. Remodeling your home today — including choosing the best window and door options — can help you better enjoy your current home for many years to come.
“Ultimately, universal design takes into consideration the need for buildings to keep pace with changing lifestyles and needs as occupants grow older,” said Gary Mathes, Pella’s manager of architectural support services. “Pella designs window and door solutions to accommodate a variety of those needs to make life easier.”
What is universal design?
Universal design is based on the theory that homes and businesses should best serve the people who live and work in them. It recognizes the diversity in people and their varying abilities.
“Universal design principles help make a building safer and more comfortable for people of all ages,” Mathes said. “For example, more spacious 36-inch wide doorways provide ample room for you to maneuver in and out whether you’re carrying a bag of groceries or confined to a wheelchair.”
Design ideas from Pella
If you’re considering a remodeling or replacement project, take a critical look at your windows and doors with an eye to the future. Select properly functioning windows and doors that will meet your needs as you age. Pella products are designed to make your life easier now and in the future.
“Pella has window designs to make cleaning glass surfaces easier, more convenient and safer because exterior glass surfaces can be washed from inside your home,” Mathes explained.
Casement and awning windows feature a sash that moves toward the center of the frame a full four inches — wider than most standard casements. They also feature a unison-style lock that secures two locks with one easy-to-grasp handle and an integrated crank with a foldaway handle that doesn’t interfere with interior window treatments.
Double-hung windows have a tilt-to-clean sash that makes cleaning safer and easier than getting up and getting outside on a ladder.
Pella’s Designer Series® products are offered with cordless between-the-glass window fashions, like fabric shades or stylish blinds, and removable grilles that are ideal for universal design projects. Benefits include:
- Design versatility is expanded, to suit changing needs and tastes, and provides convenient privacy.
- Between-the-glass blinds and shades are protected from dust and damage, requiring less maintenance and cleaning.
- Comfort and environmental control is enhanced, and easily achieved with easy-to-operate cranks and handles.
- Between-the-glass shades and blinds with no roomside cords eliminate potential choking hazards for children or pets.
Pella’s hinged doors offer multi-point locking systems that can be engaged or disengaged from one easy-to-reach lever handle — no need to reach high or bend low. Hinged doors also provide options for œ-inch high sills and 32-inch clear opening widths that allow for easy wheelchair accessibility.
Window and door remodeling tips:
- Place doors so there are 18 – 24 inches of space available on the handle side to allow enough room to maneuver while opening and closing the door.
- Build door thresholds no more than half an inch above the adjacent floor. Or, install mini-ramps or transition wedges.
- Install sturdy door locks that are easy to operate.
- Install a pocket door if you need more floor space to maneuver a cane, walker or wheelchair.
- Install a front door with decorative or beveled glass to make it easy to see who’s at the door.
- Consider cordless, between-the-glass blinds and shades for added privacy on windows, sidelights, entry doors and patio doors.
If you, a family member or a friend, is planning a remodeling project, consider these universal design tips to help create a home in which you can more safely and comfortably grow older:
- Improve light sources — Replace bright overhead lights — which can create glare and make reading, working on the computer or watching television more difficult — with ambient lighting and task lighting.
- Door, drawer and cabinet pulls — Avoid small knobs and round pulls that can be difficult for arthritic hands to grasp. Instead, consider easier-to-operate levers or larger pulls.
- Wider doorways and walkways — Create extra space in high-traffic areas, like kitchens and bathrooms, to accommodate the use of a cane, walker or wheelchair. Doorways and hallways should be a minimum of 36-inches wide.
- Slip-resistant surfaces — Minimize potential slips and falls in the home by installing slip-resistant surfaces on floors and in bathtubs and showers.
- Rounded corners — Choose radius edges and bullnose finishes on countertops and vanities to help prevent painful bumps and bruises.
- Accessible storage — Choose easily accessible storage options that put everything within easy reach. Avoid tall cabinets and high shelves that require a ladder, as well as deep or low fixtures that require bending down.
- Walk-in showers and safety bars — Pamper weak knees or sore backs by updating the bathroom with safety bars, a walk-in shower, a bench and/or a shower wand. Avoid bathtubs with high walls that require stepping into.
- American Association of Retired Persons
- National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
- North Carolina State University
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