It isn't about growing old – it’s about being prepared for the changes in your life, health and environment that take place as you grow older.
Right now, 1 in 8 New Zealanders is aged 65 and over, but by 2051 older people will make up 25% of the population. Many of us fear that we won’t be able to retain our independence as we grow older. That’s why universal design – the concept of designing homes so they accessed and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability – has become an important trend.
The good news is that universal design can be retrofitted into almost any existing home.
This kitchen renovation, for example, features a lowered sink area (1) using an adjustable worktop system and flexible sink waste kit with shallow bowl sink and lever mixer tap. The cupboards (2) are made more accessible with pull-out baskets. The hob (3) has been lowered with front controls plus side hinged eye level ovens. A side-by-side dishwasher and fridge freezer (4) have been integrated into the cabinetry. And the shelves (5) are illuminated so cups, bowls and utensils are easy to find.
This bathroom proves that universal design doesn’t have to lack style or elegance. Both the walk-in shower and toilet are accessible for wheelchairs and have grab handles for safety. The sink has knee clearance underneath for wheelchair users and all the taps are levers to make them easier to work. The flooring is non-slip yet still reflects the owners’ unique taste.
Wheelchair ramps tend to be added to houses as afterthoughts, but the thoughtful owners of this house included a built-in ramp as part of their exterior renovation project.