Two things are true.  First, safety is always important.  And second, our needs change as we age.  Think about all the safety precautions put in place in homes for an infant, and then think about all the different safety needs required when babies start to walk.  Safety needs evolve and change over time, and aging adults have different needs too.  For a checklist on safety for your senior’s home, visit the Home Safety Checklist, US Consumer Protection Commission.

When modifications are needed in senior’s homes to allow them to continue to live independently and safely, “universal design” comes into play.  Universal design concepts and updates make homes more accessible for all ages and abilities.  You should consider resources and contractors who are knowledgeable in, and possibly certified in, universal design.

Universal design is an approach to designing spaces that allows everyone independent access. Previously more common in Europe than in the United States, this design approach creates an environment that is universally accessible to all.  Benefitting many whose needs may not have traditionally been considered, the goal is to avoid spaces that segregate some or prevent others from using the spaces independently.  Seniors are one of the largest population groups that can benefit from universal design as they often find it increasingly more difficult to get around in their home.  And beyond functionality, the spaces also need to be pleasing to be in.

Examples of universal design include: kitchen pantry storage that swing out; kitchen shelves that lower so stored items don’t have to be reached for; raised dishwashers making loading and unloading easier; drawer refrigerator spaces instead of traditional units to make access easier; wider hallways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers; and bathing facilities with access at the same level as the floor and no steps or thresholds.

The following links provide ideas on how universal design changes can make a positive impact to your senior’s home and their quality of living.

When my husband broke his foot a few years ago, bathing was a real issue.  A zero entry shower would have been very helpful during those trying months.

Universal Design Home Tips

Universal Design Kitchen from

CRDA (Casino Redevelopment Authority in NJ):  Universal Design Demo Home 3 part video


Ohio State University 5 Part Video