person in wheelchair pulling up to accessible table due to universal design

Universal design in senior housing

Inclusive design ensures accessibility in your senior living community

To remain competitive in the marketplace, the design of the senior living community you plan to build must consider universal design. It’s an issue that can get lost in the many aspects of senior housing that an owner/developer and commercial construction general contractor must think about along the way. Without it, your design can limit the demographic you can attract to your senior living environment. And it may cut short the time certain populations can call your property home. So what is universal design? And what might universal design dictate for your next senior housing construction project? Let’s take a look.

Defining universal design

Universal design is a concept that ensures a space, product, or system can be used by the majority of people regardless of their abilities, age, or other factors. This approach to design is known by many other names, including inclusive design, design for all, and barrier-free design. This approach is particularly important for an aging population, which the standard senior living community serves, who can have changing needs over time to maintain their quality of life. This design approach serves as a great equalizer for people of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds.

How do accessibility and universal design differ?

Accessibility differs from universal design; accessibility requirements are often dictated to organizations through standards and depend upon adaptability, while universal design calls for creating spaces accessible to as many users as possible from day one. Moreover, universal design is not solely applicable to differently-abled individuals; it serves individuals with differing characteristics outside of disability. As a result, universal design in commercial construction eliminates solutions that may stigmatize a population, such as special entryways or adaptive equipment. Universal design allows for solutions that benefit everyone, not just those with disabilities.

Designs within this paradigm adhere to certain principles, particularly equitable use, flexibility in use, low physical effort, perceptible information, simple and intuitive use, size and space to approach and use and tolerance for error. With these principles in mind, your design-build team, in partnership with you, can innovatively approach the design of your senior living environment that will ensure usability for a truly diverse population. Solutions for inclusive spaces may include a combination of approaches and tactics: engineering, modifications, technology, services, policy and more.

Functional limitations, including physical, mental and psychological changes, are part of aging. Changing the perception of different abilities or changing functions allows owner/developers and commercial construction general contractors the ability to address design shortcomings that limit usability to a broad spectrum of the senior population. Inclusive design can create senior housing that helps ease the journey of aging by reducing fall risks and improving visibility, mobility, and functionality of spaces so your tenants can continue to call them home over the long term.

Inclusive design: A thoughtful, strategic approach to senior housing construction

As a design-build partner, it’s our pleasure to serve as experts in achieving design goals for your senior housing development in La Crosse WI, Rochester MN and the Upper Midwest. Together, we can ensure your commercial construction is designed to meet the needs of the senior population you intend to serve for years to come. Contact us to learn more.