8 Universal Design Products to Help You and Your Loved Ones Age in Place

published Sep 20, 2022
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Universal design elements for aging in place
Credit: Photo: ergomotion, rev-a-shelf, universal tub; Design: Apartment Therapy

My grandparents have been youthful for as long as I can remember. They were party people at one stage in life. In another, they traveled the world, climbing waterfalls and drinking with strangers. Throughout it all, they owned a store, which they religiously kept open seven days a week.

But stubbornly, age has set in. As they’ve had to give up many of the activities that once epitomized their fierce independence, aging in place modifications have been a way to protect and extend their independence at home.

For them — and for millions of others in their demographic — aging is an emotional, disillusive thing. While you can’t take emotion out of the equation, adding universal design elements to a home is a practical, investable step you can take on behalf of your aging loved ones, or to make any home more accessible regardless of physical ability. Here are eight products that help make aging in place possible.

Grab Bars That Don’t Look Like Grab Bars

The Invisia™ Grab Bar Collection from The Wright Stuff is a stylish grab bar system that can be seamlessly integrated into existing bathroom design. Unlike standard grab bars, which make two points of contact with the wall, Invisia’s grab bar products fasten to the wall at four different points to ensure reliable, enduring structural support.

“Every home should have grab bars in the shower and bathtub,” says Joya Fields, a residential transition specialist with Shamrock Hill Design. “Invisia also carries glow-in-dark knob covers that help children and adults find doorways safely.”

Hardware That Can Turn Any Door into a Sliding Door

With the DesignGlide hardware from Jeld-Wen, any standard-size door can be transformed into a sliding barn door — a simple renovation that will save space and make it easier for those who use mobility aids to open and close the door. Doors from Jeld-Wen are also equipped with soft-close hinges, offering better safety to users compared to traditional entry doors.

A Bed with All the Bells and Whistles

The Renew Wellness Retreat bed system from Ergomotion is designed with sleep safety for seniors in mind. The bed height can easily be adjusted to allow users to get in and out of bed safely, easily, and independently. The bed also comes with leg and feet warming capabilities to promote circulation, a sleep tracker, and a preset circulation cycle feature that can help to soothe muscle pain.

Credit: Bruno Stairlifts

A Stair Lift Fitted for Straight, Curved, or Outdoor Staircases

Bruno’s line of stair lifts are made to suit any staircase and any budget. The Elan Straight Stair Lift is the most popular lift the company has on the market — it features a narrow vertical rail design so that the lift doesn’t obstruct the entire stairway.

“The stair lift is immensely important for seniors living in multi-floor homes,” says Thomas Rando, owner and president of Clearview Home & Property Inspections. “Seniors that are having difficulty getting up and down the stairs or are at risk for falling can benefit from this item. Stair lifts can be fitted for straight, curved, or outdoor staircases.”

A Closet Rod That Brings Hanging Items to You

Rev-A-Shelf’s Pull-Down Closet Rod can make any closet accessible, regardless of the user’s stature. The system comes in three different widths to accommodate a variety of closets, while the rod itself can be adjusted from 34 to 50 inches. Hanging items can be accessed by pulling the rod down, where it can then be locked into place.

Credit: Grass USA
Tipmatic Opening Systems

Touch-to-Open Systems for Drawers and Cabinetry

Grass’s Tipmatic and Sensomatic touch-to-open systems are perfect for seniors — especially those who are mobility impaired or find traditional cabinet handles difficult and painful to maneuver. With the Tipmatic system, a kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom drawer or door can be opened at the touch of a panel. With the Sensomatic system, the drawer or door is activated by a touch anywhere on the surface of the drawer front.

A Walk-in Bathtub with Spa-Like Features

A walk-in tub from Universal Tubs comes equipped with standard safety features, including a low-entry threshold, a built-in safe-reach grab bar, slip-resistant textured flooring, and ADA compliant seating. On top of that, tubs include whirlpool, aero-therapy, and fast-draining capabilities for added comfort and convenience.

“The walk-in bathtub is not only easy to get into, but reduces the risk of falls,” Rando says. “Furthermore, many of the new models out there also have a number of luxury features such as heated surfaces and water jets that seniors really enjoy.”

Credit: Graber

Voice-Controlled Window Blinds and Shades

Graber’s motorized window treatments are developed with convenience and ease-of-use in mind. All systems have multiple control options to suit techy users and I-miss-my-flip-phone-types alike. Users can control window treatments and set them to a personalized schedule using a remote or the Graber Motorization App. Alternatively, the window treatments can be connected to an in-home voice assistant, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, to enable voice command.