Criteria for selecting flooring should include slip-resistance and some forgiveness for dropped items, or to prevent serious harm in the case of a fall. Pattern or contrast should be gentle, and can be used to help guide the eye. Area rugs should be taped to the floor or, better, eliminated. The point at which flooring materials change should be flush.'
Clear floor space for maneuvering is relatively easy to accomplish in the kitchen, but often difficult in the bathroom.
Pocket doors or reversed door swing help in the bath, as do vanity designs that increase open space below. Particularly in traditional 5'x8' bathrooms, converting from a tub to a roll-in-shower will also help.'
In the kitchen, planning retractable doors to conceal an open knee space will open up the clear space and provide a storage spot that easily converts to a place to sit while working.'
A big consideration for storage is that our height decreases as we age, and for many of us, it becomes less comfortable to bend or climb. Design that provides generous storage between 24" and 45" off the floor eliminates the need to do either.'
This means that the backsplash area in the kitchen becomes valuable for storage, and at least some wall cabinets might be lowered. Rolling storage in either the kitchen or bath can provide flexible clear floor space and storage that moves to the point of use as desired. Open or glass door storage will help to accommodate changes in memory.'
Support in the form of railings or grab bars is essential as we age, yet this is often distasteful to both clients and designers. With the broad offerings of grab bars today, many coordinated to match accessories, the challenge is minimized.'
While this is only the tip of a very big iceberg, it offers food for thought. If my grandmother's home had been designed to support her, she might have stayed comfortably at home. If Rosemary's mother's home had been originally designed to be supportive, her trauma might have been reduced. A 45-year-old couple and their teenage children might not seem to need "aging in place" design, but their parents or friends might. If we can design beautifully and incorporate solutions respectful of our elders, why wouldn't we?'
Universal design and access don't have to be the only focus of our efforts. Rather, we can make them an integral part of every project we design.