Are you living in your forever home, or planning to make your seasonal home the last stop? Will that dwelling remain fully accessible as you age in place? If not, it may be time to consider a universal design renovation.

Universal design enables maximum access to all areas and functionality of the dwelling throughout the human lifecycle, including birth, potential accident or illness, and aging in place. It ensures that your renovation dollars are being spent in the most practical and beneficial way possible for your life in this dwelling and the lives of those who follow.

This approach to both building and renovation is especially important in regions such as Haliburton County, where so many baby boomers have been retiring and so many empty nesters are thinking of retiring. According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census, approximately 33 per cent of the County’s permanent population was age 65 and older. Back that up to age 50 and older, and it jumped to 63 per cent.

Universal design has been losing the stigma of function overwhelming form. As the years pass, accessibility options have become more refined. According to the non-profit SAFERhome Society in British Columbia, these homes look better, work better and are worth more on the market.

Think wider doorways, hallways and stairways that contribute to that all-important sense of open concept living. Consider that, as SAFERhome notes, universal design meets the needs of the largest buyer group while offering a stylish, more livable environment for people at any age or in any walk of life. Such a home can be easily adapted to the changing needs of anyone who lives there.

Universal design renovations also increase the number of potential buyers and renters for the dwelling.

The SAFERhome Society’s SAFERhome Standards website features a 15-point checklist with directions for basic structural, design, electrical, telecom and plumbing practices when building or renovating.

These include making all exterior thresholds flush, making all hallways a minimum of 40 inches wide (ideally 42 inches), reinforcing washroom walls for future grab bars, and leaving an allowance for an elevator in stacked closets or building all staircases with a minimum width of 42 inches to allow for stair climber machines.

Electrical and telecom installation practices include positioning all electrical switches at 42 inches to the centre of the electrical box from the finished floor and returning all coaxial cable and telephone runs to one central area for smart control. Plumbing installation practices include particular positioning of all shower and tub controls.

Other options abound, such as installing an oven with doors that swing out rather than pull out, an adjustable-height sink controlled electronically, a high cabinet kick plate that elevates the dishwasher, and lever handles in place of round doorknobs.

If you are considering aging in place, check out the federal government’s planning checklist at canada.ca/en/ employment-social-development/ corporate/seniors/forum/agingchecklist.html.

For the SAFERhomes Standards 15-point “how to” checklist, visit saferhomestandards.com.

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