Universal design — creating Tsunami-free spaces for seniors CITIZENS

What Is Universal Design?

"The old is new. That paradox has been often stated by devotees of the field of aging. The recent demographic surge in people approaching or exceeding age 65 has created a new field of endeavor in which original ideas and fresh concepts are valued. One of the newest and freshest ideas in the field is universal design — an approach to making older people's dwellings habitable for them for as long as possible, regardless of the decrements of aging. Aging in place is fast becoming a selling concept not only for active adult housing, but for assisted living, and even for skilled nursing facilities wanting to become more homelike for all but the most frail of residents.” (iAD)

Universal Design Overview:

Almost every room and area of a house can be adapted for universal design. Certain features should be used throughout the home such as light switches no higher than 48 inches so everyone can reach them, at least a 32 to 36-inch clearance for doors so wheelchairs can maneuver fully, and outlets no less than 18 inches from the floor.

In addition, window treatments can be installed with a remote control device so shades don't have to be raised and lowered or pulled side-to-side, which can add strain — abundant lighting should be included since low-vision seniors may require up to five times the amount of light for average tasks.


  • Besides a zero-step entryway at the front door, a side or back door from the house should be step-free as well. Door widths should be 36 inches rather than 2'6" for easy maneuverability; hallways should be at least 60 inches wide for a good turning radius.

  • Walking paths should be wide enough for someone using a wheelchair or walker.

  • Stepless entries make it easier and safer to gain access, whether the person is in a wheelchair or using a walker or cane.



  • Cabinets should have easy to operate levers rather than knobs and the majority should be placed under the counter.

  • Oven controls should be placed at the front of the range rather than toward the rear for less stretching.

  • Counters should be at different heights to accommodate the different heights of users.

  • If eyesight is poor, contrasting colors or materials can help someone differentiate different zones.

  • A kitchen with mostly under the counter cabinets helps someone short and frail avoid having to step on a stool to reach high cabinets.

  • If hearing is poor, flashing lights on appliances rather than bells can alert someone that dinner's ready.


  • Grab bars to grasp whether using a toilet or getting into and out of a shower are essential and designs today look sculptural. If homeowners aren't yet ready to incorporate this feature they can have blocking installed behind walls, which will cut the expense later.

  • Abundant lighting for overall ambiance as well as tasks is essential and special waterproof incandescent lights should be placed in the ceiling of a shower and over a tub for extra care.

  • Showers should have a step-free entry and many tub models are available with a door that allows a person to enter. Both should be fitted with a seat, hand-held sprayers, anti-scald valves and niches to hold soap and shampoo at a level that can be reached.

  • Floors should be slip-resistant wood, vinyl or tile with a lot of grout for traction.

  • The height of counters should be flexible, but 34" allows someone in a wheelchair to pull up to a sink. That counter also should have a knee-hole for comfort.

  • All cabinets and drawers should be fitted with levers rather than knobs.

  • A comfort-height toilet model should be selected that's 2" higher than normal and easier to transfer onto from a wheelchair; a wall-flush valve makes flushing easier.

  • Lighting modifications along a hallway can provide a clear path to a bathroom in the dead of night when eyesight is failing.

  • Curbless showers with a bench allow someone to roll a wheelchair in and bathe.

Laundry Room Equipment

  • Front-loading appliances are easier to reach than top-loading models.

  • Access among levels. In multi-story homes, a lift can be installed for those not able to climb stairs. (Aging Care)

At No Place Like Home Remodeling we focus on all the above and so much more — we’re here to walk you through the daunting process of Universal Design. Our team of Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist will breakdown all the necessary steps for you and customize a plan that 100% fits your needs. We want nothing more than to turn your home into a suitable, safe, living space. Give us a call today, or click-on the Contact Us tab and drop us a line. We usually respond within twenty-four hours (weekdays). We’re looking forward to serving you and putting your mind at ease when it comes to aging-in-place.