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With Universal Design, One-Size-Fits-All

So a home can be a home for life

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A well-designed home, or one that has been modified to incorporate universal design principles, can promote independence and the satisfaction of being able to stay in control — and in your home — for the longterm.

Fixing up your home? AARP member discounts can help

Universal design is about creating a home that is adaptable, safe and easy-to-use for all residents and visitors, regardless of age, size or ability. Universal design features and products are attractive and stylish, come at all price points and, when incorporated into a home correctly, are essentially invisible.

A home built or modified with universal design features includes:


  • At least one step-free entrance into the main floor of the home

  • Plenty of clear, level space (5 feet x 5 feet) inside and outside the entry door for easy maneuvering while opening and closing the door

  • Walkways and sidewalks that are at least 36 inches wide and level or slightly sloping

  • Wide or double doors with lever handles, dead bolt, security peephole, and easy-to-use locks

  • Bright lighting outside and inside the entryway

  • Large, easy-to-read house numbers located in a prominent place that can be seen from the street

  • Covered entryway or porch to protect from the elements

Floor Plan

  • Kitchen facilities, full bath, and bedroom located on the entry floor level

  • Clear, maneuverable floor space in kitchen and bathroom

Throughout the Home

  • Interior doorways 36 inches wide

  • Hallways 42 inches wide

  • Rocker panel light switches placed 36-44 inches above the floor, electrical outlets placed 18-24 inches above the floor, and thermostats placed 44-48 inches above the floor

  • Lever door and faucet handles

  • Handrails mounted on both sides of stairs

  • Non-slip flooring throughout the home, especially in bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry

  • Tightly woven, low-pile carpeting that is easy to walk on or roll over

  • Easy-to-grip D-shaped cabinet and drawer handles

  • Bright, non-glare lighting

  • Easy open windows


  • At least one full bathroom on the main level

  • Plenty of clear floor space (30 x 48 inches) for maneuvering between bathroom fixtures and a 60 inch square turning space

  • No threshold walk-in or roll-in shower with non-slip flooring and a bath seat in tub or built in bench in shower to allow for seated bathing

  • Adjustable height handheld showerhead

  • Reinforced blocking in walls to accommodate future addition of grab bars if needed

  • Easy-to-reach anti-scald faucets with lever style handles on sink and in bathtub or shower

  • Raised comfort height toilet with seat 17 to 19 inches off the floor


  • Anti-scald faucet with single lever-style handle

  • Easy access kitchen storage including pull-out or pull-down shelves, adjustable height shelves, and Lazy Susans in corner cabinets

  • Multi-height countertops with rounded edges and some with open space underneath so one can work while seated

  • Pull-out drawers and shelves in base cabinets that close automatically

  • Raised dishwasher to reduce bending

  • Oven with shelf or counter close by for easy handling of hot foods

  • Side-by-side or drawer-style refrigerator

Laundry Room

  • Front loading washer and dryer on raised platform

  • Multi-level shelving and work surfaces

Learn More! Select a Home Fit topic from the sidebar (above). Read the complete AARP Home Fit Guide in print by downloading (PDF) or ordering your free copy now. Contact your AARP State office and ask when it will be hosting an AARP Home Fit Workshop.

Article last reviewed or updated April 2014

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