Universal Design Allows Aging in Place

Feb 15, 2016

When searching for a home, we often ask ourselves if it's a place where we can grow old, but we don't often ask whether it's the home that will allow us to age in place. Universal design helps make homes function for people with varying levels of mobility.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with home improvement expert Bill McAnally and Mary Yearns, a former ISU Extension Housing Specialist, about three big design features that make a home more accessible for people of various ages and abilities.

"As you get older, steps become more of a challenge," Yearns says.

She adds that younger families can benefit from being able to easily carry furniture in and out, or maneuver a stroller in and out of an entry, with no stairs. Once you get inside the home, one floor living is another consideration.

"Can you eat and sleep and use the bathroom on that main floor, easily without going up and down stairs?" Years asks. 

Making certain bathrooms universally usable is also important. Yearns says at the minimum, you need a five foot diameter turning circle in any bathroom, to allow for someone in a wheelchair to maneuver between the toilet, sink and shower.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, McAnally and Yearns also suggest thinking about the height of outlets, counters and light switches, and the width of doorways and halls.