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How Does Universal Design Integrate with Senior Living Facilities?

How Does Universal Design Integrate with Senior Living Facilities?

Posted In // Healthcare

Developed to meet the needs of senior citizens and those with disabilities, universal design prioritizes accessibility for the full spectrum of people. Let’s explore its core principles and upgrades from This Old House that could be used as basic approaches for senior living facilities.

Holly Cratsley, an architect who works with the Emmy-winning PBS show This Old House, recently designed a home geared toward accessibility and the needs of elder care. Using the seven tenets of universal design, she was able to craft a home for the 73-year-old Buckleys that prioritized the safety concerns associated with aging.

Let’s look at the basic principles of universal design and the specific tactics used by Cratsley; both could be of interest to senior living facilities.

7 core universal design principles

“Universal design is a design concept that recognizes, respects, values and attempts to accommodate the broadest possible spectrum of human ability in the design of all products, environments and information systems,” notes the College of Design at North Carolina State University.

Here are the basic seven core principles behind this approach, as explained by Ireland’s Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD):

  1. Equitable: People with a range of abilities should be able to use the space.
  2. Flexible: Options and adjustments should be available for people with different abilities.
  3. Understandable: People should be able to immediately or quickly understand how the space can be used.
  4. Transparent: “The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user,” says the CEUD, “regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.”
  5. Error-tolerant: The space should make it less likely that accidents lead to injuries.
  6. Easy: It should not be slow or tiring to use the area.
  7. Spacious: There should be plenty of room available for people to use universally designed areas, no matter what physical limitations they might have.

6 upgrades for safer senior living environments

Here are six ways Cratsley introduced universal design to the Buckleys’ home:

  1. She implemented levers for faucets and in place of doorknobs. Similarly, she switched out regular light switches for rocker ones that light up.
  2. She made the floors slip-resistant with nonskid mats under area rugs, reduction of trip points such as thresholds, and installation of low-pile carpeting.
  3. She added handrails on both sides of their staircases. She also improved the lighting and used stair nosing for better grip and visibility.
  4. Generally, she enhanced lighting throughout the residence, paying special attention to entryways.
  5. Cratsley introduced surfaces at the entryways so the Buckleys could put down anything in their hands on their way out or in.
  6. She added grab bars in the shower and at the toilet, notes Roseann Henry of This Old House. “A single-handled faucet control reduces the chances of scalding at the sink, and a pressure-balanced control does the same in the shower,” she generally advised. “A hand-held showerhead is often easier to use for someone with limited mobility than a fixed showerhead.”

Expertise for senior living design

Are you looking to design or upgrade a senior living environment to better serve residents with a diversity of abilities? There are innumerable ways that the principles of universal design can be integrated into elder care facilities; the above are just a few.

At Beaux-Arts Group, our goal is to meet the needs of our healthcare clients by providing them with attractive, adaptable and durable furniture solutions. Learn more.
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