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AARP AARP States Vermont

Universal Design Tips for Homeowners

Housing needs change as we age. According to an AARP survey, 90 percent of adults age 50 and older would prefer to stay in their homes while they age. However, as these adults age, they may begin to face obstacles within their homes that make living independently a challenge. Universal Design (UD) is one way to address these issues. 

Universal Design is an approach to home building, remodeling, and community development that centers on safety and ease of movement both inside and outside of the home. It accommodates the mobility needs of all residents and allows older adults to age at home and in their communities where they have strong social networks and a sense of familiarity. By 2030, the 65+ population is expected to account for nearly 20 percent of the entire U.S. population, which means our housing stock needs to change in order to accommodate our aging population.

In some cases, a few simple changes to your home can help meet your changing needs and make life easier for visitors to your home. Many UD features for your home are inexpensive and simple to install, while others are more complex and pricier. But, investing in a few small changes now can help you remain in your home longer. A home that incorporates UD features — such as a no-step entry, wide doorways for wheelchair access and easy-grasp lever-style handles in place of doorknobs — will not only keep you safe and comfortable in your home, but will also add value to your home. Older consumers will be looking for these features as they make housing choices in a competitive marketplace.

Other Universal Design features that support aging in place include:

  • First floor living, where residents have everything they need to live comfortably on the first floor with easy access to the kitchen and entertaining spaces.
  • Step-free showers and slip-resistant floors, features that reduce the risk of falls and injury of older adults.
  • Friendly streets for all users, streets that are designed for people, not for cars, that allow pedestrians and bicyclists to safely and comfortably use community streets.
  • Adequate sidewalks with benches for resting that encourage walking among all residents, thereby improving the overall health of the community.

With help, it is possible for our homes and communities to be livable for people of all ages and life stages. To get started, download AARP’s HomeFit Guide and HomeFit worksheets so you can grow into your home, not out of it. If you’d like a HomeFit presentation from an AARP Vermont volunteer, please contact us at

Check out the video below for an AARP Vermont webinar on Universal Design tips you can do yourself:

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