Difference between Universal Design & Aging-in-Place

The concepts of Universal Design and Aging-in-Place are closely aligned, though with subtle differences. Aging-in-Place modifications are most commonly installed as part of a remodeling project and are targeted to aging home owners with specific needs. Universal design refers to building design elements that make a home accessible to all people, regardless of age or ability, and is most common in custom home building. These design elements are meant to be convenient, comfortable and transparent so that they blend in without being noticed. While aging-in-place modifications tend to be noticeable amendments to a home’s existing interior, universal design is meant to be virtually transparent and is targeted to all home owners, regardless of age or ability.

Here are some examples of common Universal Design elements that are also often incorporated into Aging-in-Place remodels:

  • No steps to get into the home – great for all ages, including children
  • Living, sleeping and bathroom areas all on one level
  • Wide doorways and hallways – let wheelchairs pass through, and make it easy to move things around
  • Extra floor space
  • Floors, tubs and showers with non-slip surfaces, grab bars, and seats
  • Handrails on steps
  • Good lighting
  • Lever door handles and rocker light switches
  • Drawer dishwasher, microwave, dinnerware storage systems
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