The growth in senior-friendly programs and products that has begun emerging as the baby boomer generation begins retiring is affecting not only seniors, but also their families. Many seniors, for example, are choosing to move in with their adult children and are creating a new wave of multigenerational households. Home builders, architects, and home product designers have taken note of this shift and are more often incorporating “universal design” features in their products.
Universal design is a way of creating products, homes, and living spaces so that they are usable by people of all ages. For example, the bathroom grab-bars and easy-access toilet facilities you see in public bathrooms are there because of the results of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law that mandated that public spaces have such features. Many of these features are also found in universal design, but designers utilizing these principles try to steer away from the often sterile and cold impression that many people have of accessibility features.
Homes built with universal design principles in mind are usable by people of any age and focus on allowing everyone to maintain their independence. Whether it’s grandparents living in the same home with their children and grandchildren, or seniors living alone, universal design features are also made to be customizable and individualized. They feature wider doorways and hallways, better lighting, easier to use switches, and many features that allow homes to feel personal without the sterile feel you often get from public spaces or hospitals.