When looking for senior housing, you can’t safely assume that the space will be accessible to you. By accessible I don’t just mean you get the keys. In design “accessible” means the space is designed to be usable by people in wheelchairs, with walkers, and whose bodies work in various ways.
This can go by the name “Accessible” or “Universal”, and although there are some basic Universal Design principles, this style of design can use different methods to meet the needs of the household. Some “accessible” living spaces will have lower counters for seated use, curbless showers, wide hallways, ramps, and similar accommodations for wheelchair users. The door handles, drawer pulls and sink knobs may be chosen for their ease of grip. Rails may be installed near beds, showers, and toilets.
Universal Design is Great News!
Knowing that there are spaces designed to be easier to use means you don’t have to accept apartments built in ways that are hard to navigate. And this doesn’t just become important after you begin to find wheelchairs or walkers useful! When choosing a place to live with the hopes of living there into later years, now’s the time to pick wisely.
Alternatively, if you like a place that currently doesn’t utilize Accessible Design, it can’t hurt to ask if changes can be made. Many Universal Design upgrades are not particularly difficult to add to a living space. Examples include lightweight doors, ergonomic handles, safety rails, and hand-held showerheads. You can even ask for these improvements to be made before you move in.
But is it Ugly?
In short, no. Universal Design is not ugly. The reason it’s not ugly is that people who aren’t using the extra-accessible features tend to not even notice them. Few people find curbless showers or sink knobs that fit your hands anything less than beautiful. You can have an accessible living space in any tradition: minimalist, modern, traditional, farmhouse chic, whatever you like.
Whether you’re looking into having a roommate, joining a Senior Community, or relocating to a nursing home, ask about Universal Design. Having the support of your living space can really make a home feel more comfortable, and life easier.
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