Independence is America’s heritage and the 4th of July is a holiday that celebrates the will, courage, spirit and the soul of our nation. It is when we honor our “declaration” and our liberation from oppression, the establishing of independence, values and noble aspirations through the gathering of family and friends as we are bonded by our common and universal liberty!
According to the dictionary liberty is defined as:
“the quality or state of being free; the power to do as one pleases; freedom from limitation; the positive enjoyment of various rights and privileges; the power of choice! freedom!”
This last weekend was a great time for me to reflect on these words and feelings, as I was trying to compose my first contribution to this blog. As is the case often when multiple generations come together to celebrate, I had yet another opportunity to witness the enriching benefit — not only to myself — but to the community as a whole, that the companionship, experience and wisdom of seniors brings.
Loss of Freedoms
Many seniors, however, feel like they’ve lost their liberty, freedom of choice and independence as they age, even in their own homes. In fact many are having to consider staying in their own homes longer due to a number of factors, not the least of which is the current downturn in the economy. And yet in order to do so, modifications are needed for them to remain there in comfort and safety.
Unsurprisingly when asked, people as a whole just want to stay home and families want to stay together. In fact, according to a recent study by AARP, “83% of today’s Boomers aged 55-64 plan to age in place.” And yet an essential component of this trend, the use of universal design to accommodate aging in place, is still as infrequently applied in the residential arena today as it was in 1994 when I graduated from design school!
What is Universal Design?
Universal design is a philosophy to create through conscious awareness appropriate living environments, places and products that everyone can use safely and comfortably regardless of their changing needs overtime as they age. It strives to be responsive to the needs of as many people as possible, regardless of age, mobility, gender, race, language or economic status – thus the word “universal!”
In fact, everyone can benefit from incorporating universal design into their projects. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, able or disabled, building a new home or making changes to your existing one.
Universal Design Features
Some basic universal design features include step-free entrances, wide enough interior doorways, corridors and passage ways. For example, a floor plan where a bedroom, kitchen, some entertainment space and at least one full bathroom with maneuvering space for a wheelchair or walker enables in-home care. It also enables a caregiver to effectively perform their duties.
In upcoming blogs we will explore the many issues surrounding the concept of aging in place. We’ll look at its many definitions as it applies to one’s own home, downsizing, continuing care retirement communities (CCRC), other venues for long term or transitional care.
We’ll also look at the growing trend of making our homes “visitable” or designed in such a way that it can be lived in or visited by people who have trouble with steps or who use wheelchairs or walkers. We’ll look at the different ways universal design can create for everyone their own Independence Day!
photo credit: Raad Ghantous
About the Author: Raad Ghantous is the principal of Raad Ghantous & Associates and is an expert in luxury hospitality, wellness centers, and medical & day spa developments. He is also the owner of Your Home For A Lifetime, an A.D.A/ Barrier-free/ Universal design/Aging in place, full service design/build firm with over 15 years of experience specializing in developing integrating elegant and seamless designs/modifications to new or existing structures.