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A special thanks to Janice Wallace for this guest post on universal design:

I’m a big fan of home improvement shows and recently heard a new term “forever home”.  Instead of trading up, more people are talking about buying a home that they plan to stay in for the rest of their lives.

Owning your “forever home” means finding a home that has the characteristics to serve you at all stages of your life. It also means that renovations should take into account current needs and esthetics and potential future needs.

Many design elements that are popular today are also great for a “forever home” and incorporate elements of universal design. Universal design is all about universal access to all parts and facilities of the home for example a kitchen that accommodates seated and standing cooks, bathrooms and showers with extra space that accommodate a person in a wheelchair or a helper when bathing or attractive grab bars and handrails to help prevent falls.

Today’s trend toward larger kitchens and baths creates the spacious rooms we prefer and provides space for family members who use walkers or wheelchairs to also move easily around the kitchen. Solid surface counter tops like granite are easy to clean surfaces. Main floor master suites provide privacy for parents of young children and teens and later in life means that you don’t have to climb stairs to your master bedroom. Adding living space to your home accommodates aging relatives now and later becomes a suite for a live in caregiver to provide support for you.

Renovations to your forever home can easily include universal design elements that will look great and help you stay at home. Before beginning a renovation seek out architects and builders who have experience with universal design. Ask the professionals and yourself how can we improve access to my home and all parts of my home? Are doorways and hallways wide enough for a person in a wheelchair? If you live in a multi-story home is there a way to bring sleeping, entertaining and services you need to one level?

Universal design can show up in other smaller decisions you make when updating your home. Rewiring of electrical outlets opens the door to placing outlets that can easily be reached by a standing or sitting person. Using toggle switches to control lights and levers for faucet handles and doorknobs makes them easier to use. Replacing lower kitchen cabinets with drawers, and installing front loading washers and dryers are popular design choices that also provide universal access.

Renovating your home is your second largest lifetime expenditure after the purchase of your home. Taking the time to incorporate universal design features can truly make your dream house into your forever home.

Learn more about universal design:


Janice Wallace, The Caregivers Coach helps families conquer the confusion and stress of caring for an ailing or aging family member. She can be found at or