“Everyone enjoys socializing and entertaining family and friends, so when your guests visit, can they move around freely and safely with minimal assistance in your home?”
According to Visitability.org, everyone benefits when a home is “visitable,” including:
- “The young mother with a baby in a stroller, who doesn’t have to hump it up and down steps when she visits her friends
- The UPS driver who brings your new cabinets and leaves them on your front porch
- The homeowner trying to get the new cabinets into the house from the front porch
- Grandma who wants to visit the grandkids but knows she won’t be able to use the bathroom when she visits
- The college kid moving out with all his boxes and belongings.”
The National Association of Homebuilders defines universal design as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” Universal design concepts help remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, healthcare consultants and other professionals to create “forever homes” where people can age in place and receive visitors.
Experts say that to be “visitable” every person’s home should meet these key elements:
- Have at least one zero-step free entrance into the home (zero-step or step-free – not both)
- Minimum 32” wide interior door/s with lever handle
- Minimum 36” wide level route on ground level except, at doorways
- Full bathroom on the ground floor, with all walls reinforced for installation of safety bars
- Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other controls at accessible heights
Those features provide safety, stability, comfort and ease of use for all visitors regardless of age or ability and provide for a long lasting independent lifestyle for inhabitants. They also allow homeowners to modify their space as their lifestyle changes.
Other modifications recommended include:
- Changing lightbulbs from incandescent bulbs to LED, white light, or compact florescent, which emit blue light or white light
- Using a bulb that is 800 LUMENS or higher, which instantly improves our ability to see better
- Increase the lightbulb wattage, or, when the fixture cannot accommodate that, switch to LED bulbs that emit light and are available in various temperature ranges to suit the situation
- Replacing scatter rugs with a min 20”X40” gel pad at work areas, which reduces fatigue when standing and allows a person to transition safely onto different surfaces
- Using contrasting colors on walls, counters and floors, which helps with depth perception and provides clear line of sight when navigating throughout the home and in working areas
These simple and cost effective steps provide safety, stability, ease of use and promote independence. Help is always available in deciding what the best options are to alter a home and what can be done to transform a house into a more visitable “forever home.” A Certified Aging Place Specialist can provide a complete assessment and recommend a certified graduate remodeler (CGR) and licensed professionals to offer the desired products and services.
Wanda E. Gozdz, B.S., A.S., is founder and president of Golden Age Living, LLC, Deerfield Beach, FL. She is a consultant, residential interior designer, author, educator, speaker and an award-winning advocate for seniors. She is a Master Instructor for the NAHB and a subject matter expert on Aging in Place. Ms. Gozdz can be reached at 954 401 5948, email firstname.lastname@example.org.