The "Back Door" to Universal Design: Aging in Place


When we talk about Universal Design as the foundation of both aging-in-place and Inclusive Tourism we often run into two dilemmas:

*As people age they do not inevitably self-identify with a vibrant global community of people with disabilities because they see theirs as a "personal problem" - perhaps with a burden of shame or denial of its naturalness and permanence.

*Aging-in-place is applied claustrophobically to "inside the four walls of a home."

Two recent posts on UD speak to these points in complimentary ways.

David Dickinson at In Your Home Blog observes:

When we focus only on accommodation, rather than universal benefit, we unfortunately undermine the full promise of UD.

As unpleasant as it is, the reality is that things that are seen solely as accommodations for those with disabilities will wind up being marginalized by a large proportion of the population.

On the other hand, if the same designs are seen simply as "easier to use" they will get wider appeal and acceptance. Best to think of UD as a movement to create a more functional, flexible, intuitive and forgiving environment for all of us. If that were achieved, the need to make physical modifications to homes would be greatly decreased.


At Silver Planet Susan Hindman interviews Cynthia Leibrock who wisely slides into UD thinking by taking the longitudinal perspective on bodies and their capacities:

Do you think of yourself as an elderly person who needs to remodel your home right now to accommodate a potential disability?

No? Then perhaps you'd be willing to consider a home that would improve your health and longevity. For example, how can your home make it fun to exercise and to use healthy cooking techniques? What can you change in your home to prevent accidents?

If you're remodeling anyway, would you consider hidden features that could be adapted as your abilities change?

The article continues:

Universal design's features, sophisticated and often invisible, are enticing for boomers hoping to age in place. Universal design isn't separate from the rest of the house, done to handle a problem that has suddenly arisen. It's how you address your entire home when you're still healthy.

Those who nestle into homes with a forward-looking view toward their aging bodies next turn to the details of aging actively.

The "new normal" for home design becomes the basline they expect in hotels, restaurants, airplanes, and cruise ships.

The inwarding-turning moment of transforming one's life at home through Universal Design is having a ripple effect on a generations lifestyle expectations as consumers, citizens, and travelers.

More on UD in homes:

Planning for a Lifetime Shower

Green Mountain Ranch:

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