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Senior Needs Addressed with Universal Design Concepts

080215HSA_1When a couple who had lived in a two-story home for 35 years began to face mobility challenges, their solution was to purchase a one-level home where they successfully incorporated many Universal Design features without creating an institutional atmosphere. Richard and Jean Higa enjoy entertaining family and friends and wanted their new home to be both stylish and functional. To accommodate Jean, who is in a wheelchair, they added a stepless entry into the house, a bathroom with a barrier-free shower, kitchen cabinets that adjust to varying heights, and touch faucets. Their contractor was also able to widen doorways in the home, which was already designed with an open floor plan.

Universal Home Design is a growing trend, making homes more accessible to people of all ages and abilities. The maturing of the baby boomers and the increasing number of multi-generational households in which family members are caring for aging parents or grandparents have generated major changes in the way homes are designed and built.

A home that integrates Universal Design can be a stylish space that is practical for all, regardless of height, size, and age and is adaptable as the needs and abilities of household members change. When properly executed, this concept can provide functionality without creating an “institutional” look. While terms such as “accessibility” and “barrier-free” may evoke images of nursing home environments and hospital-like settings, aesthetic appeal and integration of up-to-date products for “aging in place” into the home’s design and layout are essential principles of Universal Design.

The National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors are urging professionals in home building, remodeling, and home sales to obtain certification in this specialized area in order to meet the needs of this new generation of home buyers and home owners. If you are planning to buy a new home to downsize or remodeling an existing home, consider working with a Realtor who is specially trained and has the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) Designation. Universal Design is a proactive approach – blending design features that are stylish and functional while at the same time potentially increasing the value of your home.

For information on the latest concepts in senior living, please plan to attend free seminars presented by Primary Properties and HomeStreet Bank this summer. Speakers will be Primary Properties President and Principal Broker Kay Mukaigawa (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, SRES and HomeStreet Bank Vice President Shari S. Motooka-Higa, a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), SRES Credit Instructor, Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), Certified Long Term Care (CLTC).

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