Advice for making an age-friendly home

Curb cuts–those sidewalk ramps at most intersections–were designed to help people in wheelchairs navigate urban walkways. Sidewalk designers quickly realized their value for parents pushing strollers, bicycle riders, and pedestrian.  Now known as “Lifespan Design” or “Design for All Ages,” these principles enable any living environment to be safer and more livable for everyone from infants to seniors, and have grown to include faucets, handles, hallways, lighting, stairs, sinks, doorways, and appliances since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.

To explore how such design principles can be part of any home, Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources will host a free, online presentation, titled “Universal Design: Making an ‘Age-Friendly’ Home,” on June 10 at 6:30 p.m.  Advance registration is required at or 253-798-4600. Besides online, participation is available by phone at 253-215-8782 or 888-788-0099, Webinar ID: 945 8462 6961.

Most seniors “want to live in their own homes indefinitely,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, manager of Aging and Disability Resources, a county government program. “The surprise is the benefit that younger people realize when the principles of accessibility are introduced.  Not only do older adults find an advantage to these conveniences, but all members of the family find a greater sense of well-being and comfort.”

In 1960, the first specifications for barrier-free design were published. That now involves manufacturers, builders, and service providers in producing new technologies for everyone.  The push has been to ensure that environments, products, services, and interfaces work for people of all ages and abilities in different situations and under various circumstances, Van Valkenburg said.

He added that  the principles underlying Universal Design can help homeowners make the most out of their investments, whether it’s replacing light switches or major remodels.

“Universal Design: Making an “Age Friendly” Home” will be presented by Michael Weinstein, co-owner of the Reverie at Silver Creek, a senior-living community in the Puyallup area. He also is president of Synthesis Interests and the Universal Design Collective, and he is a member of the City of Seattle Universal Design and Digital Equity Committees.