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How Universal Design Can Help You ‘Age In Place’

For many Americans, approaching retirement also means getting ready for another major life transition – purchasing a new home. That’s because features like stairs, narrow hallways, and small bathrooms can become difficult to navigate as you age.

But what if you could have your “forever” home now?

Universal design is a new architectural science that makes this possible. It helps builders create homes that are livable for people of all ages, including those with disabilities and mobility issues. While it’s not considered a one-size-fits-all approach, incorporating elements of universal design can make your home functional no matter what stage of life you’re in.

Design features such as wider hallways, integrated grab bars, and fewer steps can make your home functional for everyone, giving you the chance to stay in your current house without worrying about future accessibility.

Here’s why universal design could change the way you think about your next home purchase or remodel.

Universal Design is flexible.


Integrating universal design into your home doesn’t always require a major renovation. There are plenty of small projects that can make a big difference in the accessibility of your home.

Whether you’re just replacing something that’s broken or remodeling an entire space, keep these universal design features in mind while you’re planning:

  • Soft-closing drawers and cabinets
  • Waist-level appliances
  • Walk-in bathtubs or standalone showers
  • Grab bars and handrails
  • Handles instead of knobs
  • Automated lighting
  • Integrated ramps or lifts
  • Minimal stairs

Universal design is cost-effective.


Here’s a fact that may surprise you. Incorporating accessible features does not typically increase the cost of a remodeling project. In fact, you could end up saving money in the long run, since these designs can help you avoid future home updates.

Read more: What Home Maintenance DIYers Need to Know

With smart planning, there are plenty of universal design elements that can be incorporated at little to no extra cost.

Universal design boosts resale value.


You may think an accessible home serves a narrow market. But with our nation’s 76 million Baby Boomers now reaching retirement age, the opposite is often true. According to a 2017 report from the National Association of Realtors, one in five home buyers aged 52 to 61 purchased a multi-generational home.

Empty-nesters and multi-generational families see homes with universal design principles as a safe place for people with disabilities, children, and the elderly. This makes an accessible home marketable to anyone who wants to live there for the long-term.

Universal Design can still look modern.

Just because a home is accessible doesn’t mean it has to look institutional. At its heart, universal design is person-centered, and most design features don’t draw attention to themselves.

For example, thresholds that are flush with the floor are easy for a wheelchair to cross – but they also make it harder for someone to trip. And having appliances at waist level puts everything you need for cooking within arm’s reach. Those are features you can appreciate at any age.

Protect your investment.


Universal design can help save you the trouble of moving or investing in expensive renovations as you age. It also gives you room to grow, whether you find yourself caring for your grandchildren or your aging parents.

At Erie Insurance, we know your home’s design is unique to you. It’s more than light fixtures and hallways. It’s built for real life – and you want to be sure it’s protected with the right homeowners insurance. Keeping in touch with your local ERIE agent is the best way to ensure that your protection stays current and continues to meet your needs.

Contact your local Erie Insurance agent to make sure your home, and everything it stands for, is protected.