Tag 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 (http://bit.ly/2jGMXFy) 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

The Neighbor Helping Neighbor Program — Intentional Communities

people in a neighbor helping neighbor program

We’ve all read the statistics that the vast majority of Baby Boomers would like to age in place. But a lack of services for both small and large issues — snow shoveling, transportation and home health care — often make it impossible for seniors to remain at home safely. That’s one reason intentional communities (a neighbor helping neighbor program) have popped up across the country.

This Alternative Brings Services to You

The neighbor helping neighbor program is a departure from the tradition of bringing seniors to the services. The intentional community model brings necessary services to seniors’ doorsteps. “These communities are really the wave of the future for aging,” said Dianne Campbell, executive director of The Village Chicago.

People in a neighborhood or city come together to organize, fund and manage not-for-profits that serve as connectors between seniors and the services they require to age in place. The neighbor helping neighbor program is often buttressed by an army of volunteers, and the side benefits include social and emotional connections for both the seniors and volunteers.

How to Start a Neighbor Helping Neighbor Program

Though there were more than 100 such communities either operating or starting up around the country as of 2009, no neighbor helping neighbor program is exactly the same. That’s the beauty of them, say supporters. Each has its own culture and services, depending on residents’ needs, interests, and desires. If there’s not one in your area, you could be the catalyst and create your own group. Here are some starting points:

  • Research other similar communities that have been established and learn from their successes and mistakes. Boston’s Beacon Hill Village was the earliest intentional community, and they created a workbook that guides newbies through the process.
  • Develop a founding group. Ideally, you want those committed to donating skills, time, knowledge and funds. Staying Put In New Canaan, a New Canaan, Connecticut community, for instance, tapped local marketing, finance, accounting, legal and administrative talent who offered services pro bono. Many continue to do so. And The Village Chicago started with just three couples chatting and seeking alternatives to existing senior care options.
  • Assess interest and recruit prospective members. You’ll likely find an interest because so many have the desire to stay put. That, in fact, was the starting point for New Canaan’s Staying Put. “People came together who didn’t want to leave town as they aged,” comments the group’s executive director.
  • Fund the plan. Locating funding sources could be a challenge. Seed money can come from local businesses and corporations and board members.
  • Create a business plan, including staffing needs, operating cost estimates and funding resources.
  • Develop relationships with neighborhood groups. Include health care ventures, businesses and government groups geared to seniors, along with art and education programs to figure out what’s already available and where holes exist. Not duplicating what already exists is important. And networking with local groups has offered expertise, advice, insight, and access to data and studies that could be invaluable.
  • Determine membership costs.
  • Estimate costs of services. Some services are included in the membership fee and some are provided free by volunteers. Others are offered on a fee-for-service approach, and groups typically negotiate for discounted rates with providers. Having a volunteer framework in place is key. Not only does it keep costs down for members, it also leads to new friendships among neighbors and strengthens community bonds.
  • Promote the idea. You can hold town meetings to introduce the concept, get people interested and recruit volunteers and members. Having a passionate, respected spokesperson can be advantageous.
  • Locate service providers, ranging from home health care providers and computer technicians to handymen, landscapers, and plumbers. What services you offer depend on members’ needs. Recognize that the needs in urban areas may differ from those in rural and suburban communities. Transportation may be one of your greatest challenges. You can enlist volunteers who provide personalized transportation, helping members run errands, taking them to doctors’ appointments and car pooling for special events.
  • Develop enrichment programs. Though one aim of intentional communities is to allow people to age in place, the other goal reaches beyond just servicing the members’ physical needs. A critical component is a social aspect. That includes providing a broad array of outings and events, including museums and concerts, dinners, classes, lectures, exercise groups, and so forth. Community-building is important. Try to weave a network of community support and give multiple generations an opportunity to interact, make new friends and build programs.

Such groups can also help members fend off loneliness. As we age, we tend to get more isolated. So, try to do very personal things—home visits and calls—to minimize that isolation and keep up with what’s happening. It’s all about respecting and caring for seniors and neighbors caring for one another.