How should you design a Dream or Last Home?

Look at all those steps.

Imagine building a dream home you can only live in for fifteen to twenty years before you're forced to move. Following the principles of Universal Design ensures usability from cradle to grave for any person of any age or ability.

On my morning jogs during family vacations in Hilton Head Island, I enjoy gazing at the multi-million dollar homes. As I run, each vacation or retirement home seems more luxurious than the ones I've passed and I can only imagine what they're like inside.

But now that I know Universal Design (UD), I view those fancy houses from a different perspective. I see owners who will either spend big bucks to retrofit or eventually they'll be forced to move because they built a dream home, including the landscaping, without considering accessibility and usability for decades down the road. For example, many of these gorgeous homes have grand staircases leading to the front entry or from the foyer to the second floor. How will the occupants navigate with large luggage or when they become elderly and begin to lose mobility?

Why would someone in their peak earning years, typically early-to-mid forties, build a dream home or "the last house I'll ever own", decked out with all the latest features, and not consider how they might age? Obviously, they're either not considering or they've chosen to worry about it later when it becomes a burden.

Once you understand UD, you'll appreciate as simply the best way the proactive UD principles of simple, intuitive, flexible use with low physical effort and tolerance for error. If you were carrying a stack of boxes, golf clubs or pulling a baby stroller or luggage, would you prefer to climb steps or move inside through a zero clearance entry? Would you prefer to bend over to plug your vacuum into an outlet that is one foot or two feet off the floor? Same with landscaping, would you prefer to tend a raised flower or vegetable garden or the traditional ground level?

As the media gives more attention to "aging-in-place" (a phrase we detest) and Universal Design, there's a tendency to view these convenient and smart features ONLY from a perspective of curing a deficiency or limitation, "Oh, that's for people in a wheelchair." BuilderFish wants everyone to know these alternatives as the "best practice and preferred way", which make home life easier AND keeps people in their houses longer, but the primary benefit is ease and convenience regardless of age.

As I jogged during vacation, I imagined how excited these owners must have been designing and moving into their beautiful homes and how sad it will be for some of them to be forced to move only because they didn't account for life's long haul or changing circumstances. Prevent that from happening to you by understanding UD and ensuring your home is flexible and multi-generational to accommodate multiple life stages and circumstances.

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?
What is CAPS and Why does it matter?

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