Category Archives for "aging in place"

September 18, 2017

Universal Design House Plans Make Home Renovation Pay Off

Universal Design House Plans and Cost Recovery

Using Universal Design house plans when renovating your home can pay off big time. Home renovation dollars can be limited. Figuring out how to spend them is always a challenge. Should I make just cosmetic changes? Should I try to make the house appeal to a certain generation? What will give me the best return on investment?

builder looking at universal design house plans

Look to the 2017 Remodeling Cost vs. Value report ( for answers and how Universal Design house plans can make a difference in cost recovery.

Remodeling magazine’s annual report estimates the cost of 29 home improvement projects and how much homeowners could expect to recoup on a renovation when they sell.

This year, realizing that more homeowners are focused on aging and multi-generational households, the report added a new category and looked at the value of using universal design house plans for a renovated bathroom.

The $15,730 project included:

  • Widening the doorway for wheelchair accessibility
  • Reinforcing walls to support grab bars
  • Installing a zero-threshold shower with a fold-down seat
  • Putting in a comfort-height toilet
  • Installing a sink with space to allow someone to sit at it

It’s a project that could help you both age more comfortably and stay longer in your house. You also can expect to recoup $10,766 — 68.4 percent of the project cost–when you sell.

What is Universal Design?

If you’re not familiar with the term, universal design, and how it might apply to your home renovation, this is how The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design defines it:

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples’ needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.

Universal Design House Plans for Home Renovation

I find that definition to be kind of wordy and unclear, as it might apply to a homeowner. Let me simplify that in my own words, speaking to you as a homeowner (or maybe even a flipper) who needs to renovate a home with the intent of reclaiming as much money as possible from the renovation costs.

Universal design is not just for disabled people who need features like ramps, wheelchair doorways, etc. We Baby Boomers who are not disabled need some of those features, too — if not now, then later. Within the definition of “environments that meet peoples’ needs . . . regardless of their age, size, ability or disability” are old people, toddlers, little people, big people, and handicapped people. You get the picture. So, there are a wide variety of universal design features that could be included in a home renovation.

How to Incorporate Universal Design into Your Home Renovation

Universal Design is not necessarily a specialist subject. In truth, it can be applied by any designer.

There are seven principles applied in a home renovation that can get you started:

  1. The design is useful to people with varied abilities.
  2. It accommodates a wide range of individual likings and abilities.
  3. Its use is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current awareness level.
  4. The design communicates needed information well to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  5. It lessens hazards and the adverse consequences of unintended actions.
  6. The design can be used efficiently and easily and with the least fatigue.
  7. Proper size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

If you want to incorporate universal design in the most effective and efficient way, you should find a builder or architect who knows how to apply these principles. Regardless of where you are in North America, we can help you with that through our network.

Take a look at a related post we made on architect Matthias Hollwich and his book, New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever

February 4, 2017

Choose to Live Better By Changing Your Views on Aging

Choose to Live Better Now to Be Happier Later

You can choose to live better now and reap the rewards as you age, so says architect Matthias Hollwich in his book, New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever (

this couple believes in the motto "choose to live better"

Hollwich has researched aging at the University of Pennsylvania and is the co-founding principal of the New York City architecture firm Hollwich Kushner (HWKN). Though his profession is the built environment, Hollwich focuses not just on physical space but also addresses all the shifting parts associated with getting older and suggests ways to adapt so you can embrace aging and do it well.

Aging is a Gift

He calls for a revolution. Against ourselves. Or rather against our views on aging. Rather than seeing it as a process fraught with fear, sadness, and loss, aging should be considered a gift and an opportunity — something empowering and something to celebrate. A perfect time to “choose to live better.”

The book, which can be read in a sitting or two, doesn’t provide exhaustive detail concerning the how-to of aging. Instead, it suggests ways to reimagine the process and think about the actions that will lead to a more fulfilling life socially, physically, and emotionally. Hollwich makes his case in nine brief, readable chapters that include “Love Aging,” “Be Social,” “Never Retire,” “Access vs. Mobility,” and “Our Homes are our Castles.”

Banish Last Century Thinking

Hollwich’s video presentation, 8 Rules To Age Better” (, and the book are an indictment of current senior housing options. He calls assisted living and retirement communities “outdated venues from the last century.” He describes nursing homes as storage facilities and believes that you can choose to live better.

Home Belongs to You, Not Your Future Buyer

So one key step to successful aging is rethinking how we house ourselves.

In the video, Hollwich points out that most people buy homes and condos with an eye toward reselling them. “It means we buy a home for the next person, not ourselves. We have to make sure the home is for us and is adequately prepared for things that might go wrong,” he says. His view is that we should turn our homes into our castles.

The surrounding space – the city and neighborhood – is equally as important as the house when you’re looking to support your needs and desires as you age. Think walkability, amenities and services, recreation, restaurants and public places that you can reach easily and that will help you to stay connected with life, the community, and people.

Good idea: Yes, the best plans for aging can veer off course. Have a room with a view and make certain that your bedroom is a beautiful place, just in case it becomes your primary living space temporarily or for the long term due to an illness or accident.

Get Social

You know that loneliness and isolation are killers during old age, so strong human bonds are crucial to long-term happiness. Start building that social web now, not when you’re old and you desperately need it.

Three ideas for finding relationships include:

  1. Family. Think of your three best friends and start considering them your siblings. After all, the notion of family is evolving and it’s not just blood relatives who can be in our inner circle.
  2. Colleagues. Leave a job and you often leave colleagues – those with like interests – behind. Why? Stay connected with them. They may become dear friends or they may be the people you tap when you have an idea for a new venture.
  3. Neighbors. Robert Frost’s proverb, “Good fences make good neighbors” may not be a smart move. Schmooze with your neighbors. Turn them into friends.

Volunteering, offering to help others, exercising with friends, Skyping with loved ones, and creating a weekly communal dining experience at your favorite restaurant all help to nurture those relationships.

Innovation to the Rescue

The hope is that the human connections will help when life gets difficult. But Hollwich also is hopeful about conveniences and technologies that increasingly allow people to age better than previous generations have.

Those include things like food delivery services, Uber, apps that help you stay active, and technology that can connect you to your doctor digitally. And as technology evolves, those innovations will only get better.

Good idea: Share a person. At some point, you may need help around the house, assistance with dressing or showering, or someone to do tasks once a week. But hiring a full-time person may be too costly or unnecessary. Why not gather together some friends and hire a professional that you can share?

“Old people are you and me in a few years,” says Hollwich. So no one is too young to create a vision for aging and choose to live better. Prepare your home and build your social network so you can craft a rich life and find an antidote to loneliness and adapt to the vagaries of old age. And be sure that you’ll be living in your castle, not in a storage facility.