If you’ve ever been too tall to fit into a bathtub, or too SHORT to reach a cabinet shelf, or have had to hoist a child up to reach the faucet, or have dreamed of aging in place in your home…you’ve been thinking in terms of “Designing for All Ages.”
This concept isn’t new, but it is one that’s been sort of “shoved aside” with other more popular terms. Those other terms, however, don’t mean exactly the same thing!
I’m pretty sure a visual will help!
Real Examples of Design for All Ages
Y’all have heard of aging in place and babyproofing, right?! These are actually two examples (or “sub-types”) of designing for all ages.
Basically, designing for all ages is LITERALLY that: making design choices in your home to make day-to-day comforts and safety for everyone a priority.
There’s also another KEY “type” of designing for all ages that’s often overlooked…these are the design choices you make for your needs and YOUR enjoyment even when they’re outside the “status quo.” Maybe everyone has a bathtub, for example, but not everyone selects the LARGEST tub to accommodate someone at home who’s 6’7”!
You CAN make these kinds of choices for your home. It’s not just about the return on investment, it’s about the return on enjoyment. And it’s all part of personalized design.
What’s “return on enjoyment” got to do with designing for all ages?
If you’re reading this article, you have at least some interest in home design that permits you to age in place in your home…and, if that really is your intention, you NEED to make design choices that will be comfortable for your needs! How can you “age in place” in your home if you can’t fit into the bathtub, for instance?!
Whether you call it “designing for all ages” or universal design, there are eight key PRINCIPLES of these schools of design. There aren’t, however, hard “rules” that cover every household’s needs. This means that you have to look at the principles and think in the specific terms that make sense for you and your family.
Here are the principles of universal design:
- Simple and intuitive use
- Low physical effort
- Size and space for approach and use
- Perception, color, sheen and light
Now…look at these principles and ask yourself, what will “size and space for approach and use” mean in your household? Does that mean accommodating easy access for someone in a wheelchair? Or for a munchkin who needs to reach his bedroom lights?!
THAT is how you design for a return on enjoyment, and what is TRULY at the heart of designing for all ages…
Must-read tips when designing for all ages
A LOT of the design choices that are best for you will depend on your household and your needs…but there are some fun things I LOVE to share with clients that usually leave them pleasantly surprised!!
- When looking at accessibility, where are the light switches in each room? Children or family members in wheelchairs need light switches moved down the wall a few inches in many cases. Also, if a switch is on the other side of the room, behind a door or in a hard-to-reach place, that’s another thing to change.
- And speaking of lights, the TYPES of light switches we have today offer phenomenal options for designing for all ages, including:
- “Wave-on” light switches
- Motion-activated (for the kids who never turn off the lights!)
- A BIG kitchen “no” is putting the microwave over the oven, especially an electric oven. This will be hard to reach for some, and children may even press or climb on the stovetop to reach it without realizing the surface is hot.
- Curbless showers are not just for aging couples, either! Tripping on the way in or out of the shower results in serious concussions and other injuries every day. And remember, stepping down into a shower is just as dangerous as having to step over a curb.
- Consider extra lighting in the kicks of your cabinets (in the bathroom or the kitchen). These can provide a soft night light in addition to illuminating key surfaces for easier use…safer, easier to use, and honestly BEAUTIFUL.
- If you don’t feel like you need to install grab bars, consider the blocking for them.
- And finally, in the business, we call steps leading up to the master bath “suicide steps.” Especially when your feet are wet, these steps are NEVER a good idea. Remove these steps if you have them!!
I will be in Fort Worth TOMORROW, January 13 at the Senior Living Series to talk about these concepts and much more, and you can STILL register if you can work it into your schedule!! I would love to see you there!