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Why Design for Accessibility?

Welcome to my blog! When I am asked, why did I focus on interior design of accessibility and aging-in-place? I answer that when we design for the most accessibility, we design for everyone. Universal design is just that: for everyone. Most people react with, “Isn’t universal design just installing hand rails and grab bars?” Well, no, it’s far more than that. Ultimately, it is about making a built environment that provides a place to live and thrive without limitations, regardless of abilities and age.

I was in a meeting, the other day, and the retired President of Portland State University said, “It’s like protecting the forest for the spotted owl. Not only do the owls get protected, but also the forest as a whole.” When we build and remodel inclusively, we all can use and thrive in this environment and it can reflect good design. Universal design, especially residential, doesn’t need to appear institutional. Many beautiful options are available for the aforementioned grab bars, stair lifts, and even elevators.

As our population ages, ten thousand people, on average, turn sixty-five every day in the United States. And more products come each day into the design marketplace that are both attractive and affordable. As an example of what the aging baby boomers want, in Portland, Oregon, we are seeing a large uptick in people moving to our fair city. We see every demographic coming here from millennials to retirement-age transplants. Interesting thing is, they are all coming to Portland for the same reasons: livability, mass transit, great restaurants, and all the amenities that make Portland so attractive. The millennials and the baby boomers, we find, want the same things. The more interesting fact is that while the millennials tend to be more mobile and leave Portland, the boomers stay.

Another question I am asked is why retrofit or remodel a house at all? Why not move our elders into assisted living instead? Overwhelmingly, studies show that as we age we want to remain in our community as long as possible. If we need memory care or cannot easily manage tasks such as cooking and bathing, then alternate living arrangements should be made; however, even if our physical abilities diminish even temporarily, we can and should remain in our homes and communities as we lead longer and happier lives in age-integrated communities.

Plan ahead! We can’t predict the future. A friend of mine, in her late sixties, has skied all her life and had an accident that resulted in knee surgery and a full-leg brace for some weeks. She was pleased that they had already installed a barrier-free shower on the main level of their ranch-style home.

Ultimately, we aim not only for accessible housing but also complete streets with accessible sidewalks, transportation, and services. My part in this is to help with making your home not only universally accessible but also beautiful and comfortable. This does not have to come with a big price tag, either. We work within budgets and can offer effective solutions. Call on us today for a free assessment and consultation. We primarily serve the Pacific Northwest, but are happy to travel.

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