A Universal Design Creates Accessible Housing for Seniors

Most senior home owners want to continue living in their homes as they grow older, but their homes may not be suited to the needs of an aging senior. Due to physical limitations that can arise with age, a senior might eventually find it too difficult to go up and down stairs or turn on/off a faucet. That’s why in an effort to ensure continued accessibility, architects, builders, and senior care professionals recommend renovating or building housing units using the universal design model.

The universal design model calls for:

  • All rooms to be on a single level
  • No-step entryways
  • Extra-wide doorways and hallway
  • Switches and outlets reachable from any height
  • Lever-style handles on doors and faucets

By removing the need to navigate stairs, providing room to maneuver wheelchairs, walkers and medical equipment, and making doors, faucets and switches easily accessible, the universal design model, in theory, allows people of all ages and physical abilities (especially those who have limited mobility and trouble turning knobs) to live in the same residence. According to a recent report from The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard, only 57% of housing units today have more than one of these features.

Rather than remodel their homes to be more accessible, some seniors find it more practical to move. The same report notes that more than 90% of seniors who move in their 80s relocate to homes with single floor living, 63% move to homes with no-step entries and 35% to homes with extra-wide doors and hallways.

In some cases, other modifications (roll-in showers, slip resistant floors, additional lighting, etc.) are needed to make a home more accessible, but for many seniors incorporating universal design features will keep their homes comfortable and safe for years.

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