Thinking of New Construction? Be Sure To Think of Universal Design!

by Kaye Swain

Notice this home has no steps leading up to the door - zero step entry.jpgHi there and welcome to a special post that is part of the #Blog4Care blog carnival being hosted by Caring Across Generations. We hope that by sharing our caregiving stories, we can begin to come up with solutions to the care crisis that is affecting millions of Americans.

Most of the homes I have bought or rented over the years have been older ones. One was only five years old. Three or four were built in the 1940s-70s. One was a Craftsman home built in 1925! And one of my loved ones beat that with a gorgeous 1900 vintage home. But I have enjoyed buying one house when it was brand new construction. That gave me the opportunity to have a wishlist of aging in place options that I added to it – even though I didn't realize that's what they were. And yes! That was a lot of fun!!! :)

My wish list then was based on my family needs at the time, including my senior dad having Parkinsons Disease that was progressing. I knew there was an excellent chance he and my mom would eventually move in with me – and they did. So I made sure the walls were wide enough to be wheelchair accessible, as well as the sidewalk in the backyard. I added plenty of grab bars. I didn't know enough, then, to ask for a zero step entry, but was blessed by one anyway! :) Even then, the threshold was bumpy enough, we eventually added a little wheelchair ramp that helped me as I pushed him in and out of the house. But not having any steps in the front really helped! 

Nowawadays, if I was buying new construction, I would have a much longer wish list that would make a home even more practical for my senior mom, myself, and anyone else who visits or lives there, be it senior citizen or my young grandkids. Simple age in place options and universal designs that don't necessarily cost a lot, but add a lot to peace of mind and easier senior living. Things like:

Pretty in pink this bathroom sink is also practical for elderly seniors who want good aging in place options

  • Single story home if at all possible
  • Easy to use handles for sinks, showers, and door handles throughout the home – probably lever-style like in the photo above
  • I love the new concept of showers with no threshold at the bottom so you can just wheel into it if necessary – but only if it can also have doors. Otherwise it might be too chilly for an elderly parent.
  • Seats in the shower 
  • At least one good size bathroom that allows for a wheelchair or walker someday (two if it is a two story home)
  • Raised toilets or handicapped toilets throughout the home that aren't necessarily super tall but aren't really low to the ground either – allowing for ease of use by all
  • Grab bars by each toilet, each tub/shower, and in lieu of towel racks as well
  • If it's two story – a bedroom and a bathroom WITH a shower and/or accessible tub on the main floor – one that's big enough for wheelchairs or walkers
  • If it's two story – a laundry room on the main floor (my sweet mom lives for her laundry :) )
  • Plenty of cupboard space in the kitchen, including options down below for those using a wheelchair or young grandkids. I always used to keep my main dishes down below when my kids were young, just so they could easily get to them.
  • When possible, appliances down at easy reach for wheelchair use.
  • Flooring that is safe for all ages. I personally like carpets but not too high to make a wheelchair easier. The blue carpet below would be OK but an even tighter weave makes the wheels work easier. And I love Armstrong's vinyl tile that looks like gorgeous stone, brick, etc. but is easy to clean and less slippery. I had a real stone floor entry-way in my home before, and that helped contribute to my broken ankle. 

This blue carpet should work ok for a wheelchair or a rollator tho even less plush makes it even easier

I realize many of you reading this are not in a wheelchair. Neither am I. BUT I spent a few weeks in one when I had to deal with a temporary disability due to my broken ankle and would greatly have appreciated all of these excellent senior solutions. They are also a benefit to an elderly senior whose range of motion has been curtailed due to aging or falls. And I know my grandkids would all appreciate many of these options. That's what I love about Universal Design – it really is designed for universal use. I can't urge builders strongly enough to think about simple things like these that would be such a blessing to so many including our beloved senior citizens. Not to mention the fact that it seems like they would be excellent selling points to help them market their properties, as well as help their buyers in so many ways – especially with the Silver Tsunami that is going on. :)

I was just talking to real estate clients about all these concepts this week. They, too, have senior parents who may be moving in with them eventually and were also starting to think along these lines. And with that "Silver Tsunami" coming quickly, we are all hoping awareness will start to escalate and give everyone more and better choices in the years to come.

How about you? Are you caring for elderly parents at home or thinking about it? Or perhaps helping senior parents with practical aging in place options? Do you have any more ideas for this list? We'd love to hear them. Don't forget to check out the other posts in this #Blog4Care blog carnival. And have a grand week! :)

Fun for grandparents - in OR out of the Sandwich Generation at the Grand Social

Kaye Swain REALTOR with Keller Williams Realty Tacoma in University Place WA enjoys visiting Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings-The Heart of the Home  125 .jpg

Kaye Swain Keller Williams REALTOR University Place WA visits boomer and grandparent Kathryn Ross The Writers Reverie

University Place Washington REALTOR Kaye Swain loves to visit The Dedicated House for Anything Blue Friday

Beverly's Got so many cute pink things each Saturday including lovely homes and home decor - great for creative ideas when you are moving to a new home

 

Click here for help with your real estate search for homes in Pierce County WA  by Kaye Swain REALTOR®

 

 

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn Ross March 24, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Blessings, Kaye! What great ideas keeping the youngsters and the seniors in mind for planning a home. I love how you take your passion for care-giving and turn it to practical purposes that can really make a difference in people's lives. Thanks so much for linking in with All Things Bright and Beautiful this month!

Joy!

Kathy

Kaye Swain March 28, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Hi Kathy, Thank you – and you’re welcome! It is fun to combine my loves of real estate and caregiving, that’s for sure. And since I have plenty of company out there, it’s a real blessing to help fellow boomers seniors and other caregivers! Have a great week. 

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