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Universal Design & Aging in Place

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 3:04 PM
  
The concept of accessibility is closely linked with the concept of equality.  In many countries, it is enshrined in law, for example the American with Disabilities Act,  The ADA, however, only applies in certain, specific environments, essentially government-run facilities, public infrastructure and employment.  It only covers a limited number of private companies, such as those involved in providing accommodation and transportation.  The development of private homes is entirely outside the scope of this legislation and yet arguably the provision of high-quality, accessible homes is of fundamental importance in a society where lifespans have been growing longer for many years now, with the result that there is a growing segment of people who strongly wish to age in place and enjoy their independence in to great old age.
 
Universal Design
 
It’s therefore hardly surprising that the principle of universal design has come to the fore over recent years.  In simple terms, universal design is based on the philosophy that all buildings should be completely accessible to everyone, as far as is reasonably and safely possible.  In other words, the idea of homes being created to fulfill the needs of a certain group of potential customers (couples without children, families, empty nesters…) is replaced by the aim of creating homes which are suitable for anyone at any stage of life and regardless of any disability.  As well as incorporating the principles of universal design into new-build homes, or homes which are in need of extensive renovation, it’s often possible to update existing homes to make them more accessible.
 
Accessibility in Practice
 
The first principle of universal design is that it should accommodate all users and avoid singling out any particular group of people.  Features such as ramps, widened doorways and laminate flooring all enhance accessibility in a way which is appropriate to all users.  The second principle is flexibility in use, which has become very much a feature of modern home design, particularly in cities.  Although this concept is often viewed in the context of maximizing space in smaller homes, it also maximizes usability in larger spaces and includes features such as pull-out work areas in the kitchen, appropriate lighting and accessible storage.  The third principle is simple and intuitive use.  Functionality and usability takes place over advanced features.  This would include features such as walk in tubs, floor-level showers and easy-access appliances.  Again, while these features all enhance accessibility and help to make aging in place a feasible reality, they are all of benefit to all occupants of a home.  It’s also worth noting here, that accessibility can become a major issue at any time, for example during the later stages of pregnancy or if a person has an accident and needs time to recover.  Hence, creating (or adapting) homes with accessibility in mind, takes care of these situations before they arise.
 
Managing the aging process
 
As the old saying goes, growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.  The aging process is a part of life, but it’s also fair to say that older age has a very different meaning now than it did even twenty years ago.  At age 82 Cloris Leachman competed in season 7 of Dancing with the Stars (in 2008) and lasted a full 7 weeks.  There are many reasons for this change and one of these reasons is that many people have become more actively aware of the need to manage their health throughout their lives and, in particular, as they transition into their later years of adulthood and into their senior years.  For all the advances in modern medicine, the human body itself still works in much the same way it always has, which means that as we age the body becomes more susceptible to injury and takes longer to recover from exercise or accidents.  This makes it all the more important to find gentle way of stimulating the body, with minimal risk of injury.  Water can play an important role in this.  Swimming is a safe and fun way of keeping fit into later years and can be supplemented by wellness treatments which combine the benefits of both water and heat, such as whirlpool baths and steam rooms.
 

Article by Jon Reyes, a guest writer from Clearwells. Jon is a specialist writer and has extensive knowledge in everything related to steam showers, saunas and hydrotherapy benefits.

Categories: Homes for a Lifetime

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