Today’s aging population, brimming with vitality and a desire for independence, is changing the way we view and design our homes. Gone are the days of rigidly separated living arrangements. More and more seniors are opting to age in place, staying in their homes instead of transitioning to assisted living facilities.

To support this trend, architects are leaning towards a universal design approach – a team of innovative Melbourne architects have been at the forefront of this movement, creating functional, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing spaces.

What is Aging in Place

Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in their own home safely, independently, and comfortably; regardless of age, income, or ability level. It’s about remaining in a familiar environment, close to family, friends, and neighbours, while maintaining dignity and quality of life.

Universal Design & Accessibility

Universal design aims to design products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design. The aim is to create spaces that are inherently accessible and meet the needs of people of all ages and abilities.

In the context of homes, accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments to assist people who experience disabilities. However, the universal design goes beyond accessibility by designing for the broadest possible spectrum of users.

Designing Homes for Accessibility

  1. Entryways & Doorways: One of the first considerations in creating an accessible home is ensuring that entryways are step-free, providing easy access for those with mobility aids. Additionally, doorways within the house should be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
  2. Floor Plans: Open floor plans are ideal for universal design – they facilitate easy movement and are more adaptable to changing needs.
  3. Bathrooms: Walk-in showers with grab bars, adjustable shower heads, and built-in seating are practical additions. Lever faucets, as opposed to knobs, are easier to operate, especially for those with arthritis or limited hand strength.
  4. Kitchens: Adjustable countertops and pull-out shelves can make kitchens more accessible. Appliances should be at a comfortable, reachable height.
  5. Lighting: Good lighting is crucial for safety and navigation. Consider automatic or voice-controlled lighting for convenience.

Final Thoughts

Aging in place, supported by universal design, is an approach that benefits everyone. It is not only about the elderly or disabled; it’s about creating homes that can adapt to our changing needs throughout life.