The concept, known as universal design, is taking hold in Washington. It aims to make spaces more accessible through wider doorways and lower sinks, and employs such features as push-button fixtures and non-glare surfaces.
Mary Waggoner says the long, narrow hallway and small bathroom in her Snohomish house were tough for her parents to navigate, particularly her mother in a wheelchair. She was surprised at the details that went into the bathroom makeover.
"The space and the turn radius and the height of things, and matching all of that to how long your arms are and how long your legs are, down to even how big the circumference of the grab bars could be, because of how big our hands were."
Waggoner won the universal design bathroom remodel from AARP
and liked the results so much that she had another bathroom put in. She says the work has enhanced the home's resale value, but also means she can now live there longer herself. A video about the project can be viewed at www.aarp.org
in the "home and Garden" section.
Michelle Malloy of Seattle, a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist who was part of the design team, says people are often concerned about making these kinds of changes - until they see that features such as grab bars are now being designed to look attractive rather than industrial.
"If you think of it in terms of a beautiful enhancement to your space that makes it easy for everyone to visit and to be comfortable in your home, that feels like a step forward to a more enjoyable life, rather than a 'medical adjustment.'"
Color contrast and lights with dimmer switches make life easier for older eyes, Malloy says, and even stairs can be made safer. She adds that many universal-design concepts make homes easier for children to get around as well.