Thursday, May 24, 2012

Universal Design: Perfect House Plans for Seniors

Multi-generational house plans are increasingly popular because lengthening life expectancy is allowing more of us to stay in our homes longer, rather than being shuffled off to a nursing home. Fortunately, these "retirement house plans" are also ideal for more youthful age groups. A few carefully designed features establish universal access for every individual. If you'd like your floor plans to serve as house plans for seniors as well, meditate on the following gathering of age-in-place design ingredients.

Common Characteristics of Age-In-Place Home Plans

1. Counters at multiple levels, or which may be adjusted in height, so people of all heights and those in wheelchairs can use them. (Age-in-place adjustments should include wheelchair users, since many of us must transition to wheelchairs as we get on in years.)

2. Anti-slip surfaces, to decrease the chances of taking a nasty tumble.

3. Single-story house plans. As we age, it becomes increasingly difficult to ascend and descend stairs. Once we shift to using walkers and wheelchairs, stairs become an impossibility.

4. Shelving Accessories, such as Pullout Gliders. Arthritis makes it hard for seniors to reach into deep cabinets. But in truth, people of all ages prefer pullout and pull-down shelving solutions - they make it much easier to organize and access cabinet contents.

5. Grip Bars in the bath and wherever a fall might happen, or where a person might need assistance in standing.

6. Elevators in Homes with Multiple Levels. This allows older people to easily access upper and lower stories.

7. Less than 5 Pounds Required. As we grow long in the tooth, our strength tends to fade. To adjust multi-generational house plans for this tendency, home designers make sure that nothing requires more than five pounds of force to operate.

8. Lever-style door handles are a good idea in house plans for seniors, since arthritis can make it difficult to perform twisting actions.

9. Total Wheelchair Access, particularly in bathrooms. To allow wheelchairs to enter, retirement house plans often incorporate walk-in tubs and lip-free showers. Moreover, there must be at least 60" by 60" of space in all living areas, so as to allow a wheelchair to turn. Lastly, it's smart to put a fold-down seat in the shower, to allow older people to rest as needed.

10. Lever Faucets. As with doorknobs, faucets in retirement house plans should be in the lever style, which is easier for those with arthritis to control.

11. Windows and Blinds that Operate Via Remote Control. Especially conscientious house plans for seniors will include remote-control functions for hard-to-reach elements.

12. Open Designs, which feature combined common rooms and minimize unnecessary walls. Open house plans for seniors might include a shared living/kitchen/dining area, which will allow more room for wheelchair users to maneuver. Moreover, open floor plans endow multi-generational house plans with increased visibility and more lines-of-sight. That way, occupants can monitor their environment by sight, rather than by sound. (Again, one's sense of hearing tends to deteriorate with age.)

13. Strong, Effective Lighting. To limit eyestrain and enable those with waning eyesight to carry out task work, house plans for seniors should feature bright task lighting near each comfortable chair and work area.

To double-check that your retirement house plans are truly universal in design, compare them against the ADA standards, sometimes referred to as ANSI A117.1.

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