By Marc Mazzei, President

Southern Tier
Home Builders & Remodelers Association


Families looking to
customize their homes for their personal needs and comfort have a wide variety
of products and design elements to choose from. Two of these concepts,
aging-in-place and universal design, are both focused on making a home more
comfortable for individuals of different abilities.

Here is how to distinguish between
the two concepts.

Aging-in-place design is most often used for individuals
requiring home modifications in order to be able to safely and comfortably use
their home as their physical abilities change over time.

There is a high
demand for aging-in-place remodeling, as the more than 76 million people born
in the U.S. from 1946 to 1964 are now starting to reach retirement age. Many of
these “baby boomers”
are looking at remodeling so they can stay in their homes and neighborhoods.

With aging-in-place, the design is convenient and comfortable
but the modifications may be noticeable. Some examples include installing grab
bars in shower stalls and putting in a ramp to replace steps. 

Universal design is applicable to all home owners, regardless of
age or ability. It is useful to meet the needs of many, from a
multigenerational family to first time home owners.

Universal design augments traditional design by incorporating
elements that offer comfort, convenience and ease of use. However, unlike
aging-in-place, universal design elements are transparent and not immediately
identifiable in a home.

Some examples of universal design include choosing counters with
contrasting borders to increase visibility for home owners whose vision may
deteriorate over time, making hallways wider to accommodate strollers or
relatives who might use a wheelchair, and building a stepless porch entry that
will increase access and convenience without compromising aesthetics.

An additional component of universal design is adaptability. A
home being built with universal design might include added blocking inside the
shower stall walls so that a grab bar can be easily installed at a future date,
a common aging-in-place update.

Home building and remodeling professionals who have earned the
Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR)
or Graduate Master Remodeler (GMR) designations have received extensive
training specific to the remodeling industry, and will be able to advise you on
universal design and aging-in-place components to fit your needs.

To learn more about universal design or aging-in-place, or to find a home
building or remodeling professional in the Southern Tier area, contact Southern
Tier Home Builders & Remodelers Association