How Age-Friendly Is Your Home?
In an Age-Friendly Community, accessibility is a significant component of quality of life for all ages and abilities, particularly for those who wish to remain in their own homes as they “Age in Place.” Eighty-seven percent of adults ages 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age, and among those aged 50–64, 71 percent have indicated they want to age in place.
To effectively age in place, physical spaces and environments must be adaptive to individual and changing needs over time, spaces where anyone can move about safely and freely, without barriers or limitations.
How can that be accomplished? With Universal Design (UD). UD is the design of buildings, products, and environments that make them accessible to all, regardless of age or ability.
There are seven principles to which UD adheres:
- Equitable use
- Flexibility in use
- Simple and intuitive use
- Perceptible information
- Tolerance for error
- Low physical effort
- Size and space for approach and use
Universal Design solutions may be as simple as installing or changing out traditional door knobs and toggle style light switches for levered versions or more involved such as widening entryways to accommodate a wheelchair. Physical spaces feature stair-free access, open under counter space to allow ease of access to sinks and countertops, and bath areas that are safe and fully accessible. A key component of UD is inclusivity — design features that are beneficial for all, from the young mom pushing a stroller while juggling groceries, to young children learning to navigate a new environment, and for anyone who suddenly finds themselves on crutches or using a knee scooter due to surgery or a sports injury.
Whereas UD features are more easily integrated into new construction, with proper planning, modifications to an existing home can likewise be visually appealing. I recently spoke with a woman who post-rehab found her home very difficult to navigate, and another who recently starting caring for her mother who utilizes a wheelchair. By incorporating UD solutions, both were able to make aesthetically pleasing adjustments to their living environments to create short-and long-term in-home accessibility.
Recognizing the importance of Universal Design, Sarasota County implemented a voluntary incentive and recognition program to encourage builders to construct housing that meets Universal Design and Visitability standards. Builders who comply with UD standards are eligible for fast-track permitting. The County also recognizes housing units that meet established criteria.
Interested in learning how to make your home livable #ForAllAges? Sarasota County is sponsoring a free class on Universal Design and Visitability, titled “How to Make Your Home Age-Friendly,” Wednesday, February 7, 2019, from 6:00pm– 7:00pm at the Gulf Gate Library in Sarasota. Visit Eventbrite.com for more information and to register for the event.
Bring your questions and get ready to age in place! There’s no better time to start than right now.