17 Nov Universal Design & Accessible Living
Often with age comes mobility issues where everyday tasks, such as climbing stairs, taking a shower, or preparing a meal become more difficult. In some cases, these daily tasks become so challenging that we must leave our homes and move to facilities built specifically to reduce these challenges. This also applies to people who have become injured due to work related accidents or other activities and people with physical or mental disabilities from birth or that develop over time.
From my experience, most people with these mobility challenges typically wish to be at home in a familiar environment with their family to continue to live as limitless as possible for as long as they can. This decision takes a lot of planning but, ultimately, if this is what people want, then we need to see the possibilities beyond the current limitations to empower these people. We must do whatever is best for their personal safety and personal freedom to allow them to stay in their home.
There are a couple of ways to address these needs and allow more people to overcome these limitations and remain independent where they live:
New Homes Designs – If new homes were all built with universal design principles, they would minimize the need for anyone to move from their home prematurely. The Disabilities Act (2005) defines Universal Design (UD), as:
“The design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used
- To the greatest possible extent
- In the most independent and natural manner possible
- In the widest possible range of situation
- Without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialised solutions, by any person of any age or size or having and particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability”
The Disabilities Act paved the way for the Accessible Canada Act (2019), which has been a significant move forward in addressing the future needs of all people to live as independently as possible.
“Aging in Place” Renovations – Now for my area of expertise, this is taking the principles of Universal Design and applying them to the specific needs of the current and future homeowner. The Centers for Disease Control defines Aging in Place as:
“The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”
In many cases, we must adapt the existing home in order to provide accessibility or limit hazards. A few typical examples of renovations that can allow people to stay in their home are as follows:
- Ramps or mechanical lifts at the entry or on stairs within the home
- Accessible bathrooms with level entry showers rather than tubs and installing grab bars
- Lever handle door knobs for ease of entry
- Accessible sinks & toilets
- Increase lighting or motion sensor lighting for safety at night
These are only a few renovations to allow people, regardless of their ability, to remain in the comfort of their own homes as long as possible.
Cost of Care Facilities – To give perspective to the cost of care facilities versus the cost to help keep someone in their home with renovations, let’s project a few numbers. Let’s say that the average nursing home bed cost the taxpayer $200/day ($73,000/year per person). If significant renovations were required to a home (bathroom, kitchen, lighting, ramp/lift), it could cost approx. $100-120K, therefore, if a significant renovation could keep one person in their home for 2+ years, it would save taxpayers’ money and continue to grow the economy with renovation projects. If we keep a couple in their home, this starts to show significant savings.
Unfortunately, provincial budgets only show cost, not savings! There must be a demand from taxpayers and persons with disabilities or limitations for the government to start investing in “aging in place” renovations and actively choose to save taxpayer money and further stimulate the economy.
Universal design, aging in place renovations, and government investment to help keep people in their own homes are all progressive tools to solve this issue. Canadians from coast to coast to coast must strive to be a model as a caring and respectful society in terms of being more inclusive for all people.
I hope you have found this article both helpful and informative. My goal is to help educate and make the public more aware of the significant skill, professionalism, and organization that is required to be a Trusted Professional in the renovation and new home building industry.
Dan Monk, P.Eng. / Red Seal Carpenter
Owner – MONK Renovations