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Designing for Better Living: Opportunities for Universal Design in Home Modifications


By 2030, the 65+ population is expected to account for nearly 20 percent of the entire U.S. population. The number of Americans living in multi-generational households is also on the rise, increasing by 4.9 million from 2007 to 2009. Older Americans consistently express a desire to age in place and maintain their independence as they age.  AARP produced this presentation to highlight the need for universal design in housing to accommodate the mobility needs of all residents and allow older adults to age at home and in their communities.

Key Points

The presentation emphasizes the social, health-related, and economic benefits of universal design features in housing, transportation, and community design. Additionally, the presentation offers an outline of 10 recommended universal design features, examples of how older homeowners can remodel and modify existing homes to better meet their changing mobility needs, and ways in which communities can be transformed to support successful aging and engagement among older adults. “Universal Design is an approach to product, household, and housing design that emphasizes ease of use and accessibility for all, regardless of an individual’s physical ability, strength, or age.”

Universal design features that support aging in place include:

  1. First floor living, where residents have everything they need to live comfortably on the first floor with easy access to the kitchen and entertaining spaces.
  2. Step-free showers and slip-resistant floors, features that reduce the risk of falls and injury of older adults.
  3. Friendly streets for all users, streets that are designed for people, not for cars, that allow pedestrians and bicyclists to safely and comfortably use community streets.
  4. Adequate sidewalks with benches for resting that encourage walking among all residents, thereby improving the overall health of the community.

This presentation is an excellent resource for any community seeking to evolve and improve its livability for all residents through the use of universal design concepts.

How to Use

Planners, community leaders, and local officials can use this presentation to gain an understanding of the demographic trends impacting housing and community livability, as well as the benefits of Universal Design for older adults and the community as a whole. Examples of universal design concepts and features are found throughout the report that will aid planners in creating livable communities and allow their older adults to comfortably age in place.

View full report: Designing for Better Living: Opportunities for Universal Design in Home Modifications (PPTX – 21.3 MB)

In Brief Summary from AARP Public Policy Institute (PDF – 61 KB)

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