In the last issue we discussed how as a society, our lifestyles have continued to change and become more informal and relaxed for the most part. Technology has greatly downsized a lot of our electronics making us a little more versatile. Computing can easily be done from anywhere in the house.

A growing number of people are now working from home after they leave the office and if they want to be included during entertaining situations they can generally conduct business by the pool or if they need privacy they can find a quiet space in the home to conduct business. We also discussed some reasons why some rooms make us feel uncomfortable. The biggest reason being the feeling of isolation. We spoke about how the old formal living rooms or studies are cold isolated rooms. We also have valuable square footage that is being taken up in formal rooms. The fact that formal dining rooms only usually get used once or twice a year is the reason why people are gravitating to more practical designs. We are going to explore isolation in a different way in this issue.

During our research on psychological design we uncovered a very disturbing fact about mobility. Studies have shown that 80% of people will end up in a wheelchair sometime in their life, whether it is temporary or permanently. This fact shows that it will be very likely that you or someone close to you will incur mobility issues during the course of their lifetime. If we extend this thought to crutches and walkers the numbers are even higher. This is still only a fraction of the items that factor into universal design aspects.

The isolation that we are talking about in this issue is the isolation caused by poorly thought out floor plans. We generally never realize that there is a problem with our homes until we have some sort of traumatic event happen. A broken arm, a broken leg, a visual impairment, or a back injury could uncover some interesting things in our houses. Most houses will have some tell-tale signs by the way of having small toilet rooms or more than three steps to the front porch or from the garage. Some homes will have small doorways into bedrooms and bathrooms. Kitchens may have some flow problems or have a lot of upper cabinet storage and not enough natural light. These small items can result in big problems in the event of an injury or some kind of degenerative disease. Having difficulties moving your house can be very frustrating and a lot of these issues could have been avoided. Using universal design concepts when designing a new home or remodeling your existing home can pay high dividends in the quality of life category.

Universal design is defined as the concept of designing an environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. A well thought out floor plan will have features in it that most people won’t even realize. A wider hallway, an extra window, a lever handle doorknob, zero clearance thresholds, wider doorways and light switches with motion sensors are all examples of universal design. These are practical features that are intended for one reason, the ease of livability. Anyone of any age or ability will be able to take advantage of these features.

Your home should be your safe haven, a place of refuge. Hopefully you will never lose mobility or any of your five senses, but if you did wouldn’t it make you feel better that your home would not limit you.

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