M: “Hey grandma, how are you?”
G: “Oh, hello there! It is so nice to hear your voice. We are doing pretty well. How about yourself?”
M: “We are doing great. I wanted to thank you for the birthday gift.”
G: “Oh, you are welcome. Thank you so much for sending the pictures. Your son is getting so big and his school picture was just so precious. Grandpa really loves looking at his pictures.”
M: “Speaking of grandpa, how is he doing?”
G: “Oh, he is fine. Sits in his chair and looks at the TV most of the day.”
M: “Did you get the new hand rail installed? And how is the new walk-in shower working?”
G: “Yes, the hand rail is installed and the shower is a blessing. It is so nice for grandpa to walk right in without any problems. He still isn’t walking much, but he is getting along.”
M: “Are you still going up and down the stairs? Have you thought any more about us moving your bedroom to the main level in July when we are home?”
G: “Oh, I am getting along pretty well. Did you do any more research on the elevator chairs?”
This is just a small portion of a long phone conversation about doing minor remodeling projects to a home that was built in the 70’s. Conversations like this are taking place more and more often as my family members age, and I couldn’t resist sharing my story.
Like many others, I am a concerned family member who wants to make sure my parents and grandparents are safe in their own home. Pretty soon my grandma and/or grandpa may be in a wheel chair, and I know their house will not accommodate their limited mobility. The hallways are big enough, but the doorways and kitchen would need to be remodeled for greater accessibility.
Universal design is the concept of designing environments to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, including the elderly (NCSU). Remodeling projects rooted in this concept will help ensure the safety of our loved ones who remain in their homes as they age.
5 Universal Design Ideas for Remodeling the Kitchen
1. Install multileveled base cabinets. A universal kitchen should have 42-45 inch countertops for standing cooks, a 36 inch work surface, and a 30-32 inch surface for seated cooks.
2. Choose a smooth countertop surface. These surfaces make it easier to move items across the counter and to tidy up after cooking.
3. Select easy-to-use appliances. A side-by-side refrigerator with an ice and water dispenser on the door makes daily use easier for those in wheelchairs and individuals who have trouble bending at the waist.
Look for a range with controls in the front so it isn’t necessary to bend over the burners, and install a pull-out counter under a wall oven to make transferring hot dishes less dangerous.
4. Use smart faucets. You can find hands-free electronic faucets, which will accommodate homeowners with arthritis. Another option is mounting the faucet on the side of the sink for ease of reach. Also, consider mounting a faucet over the cook top, so there’s no need to lug pots back and forth from the sink.