Seniors planning to remodel, repair, or build a new home? Looking for some innovative, unusual — but powerful — universal design features? We can help! We started collecting over 1,000 uncommon, affordable convenience built-ins in 1998, when we first began writing books and consulting to help people have genuinely extraordinary — but affordable — homes. Here are some of our favorite ideas that’ll change your life via how they enable independent living. Add any of these to your next project, and you’ll be on your way toward creating a home that’s truly beyond the ordinary!
• Motion-sensor faucets. These are especially handy, where hands will often be dirty or full. They also deliver water at a preset temperature that kids or slow-to-react family members may appreciate. No more risk of getting scalded!
• A single-lever faucet control, for ease in adjusting water flow and temperature with one hand. (It’s exceptionally inconvenient to have two-fisted, separate hot and cold controls at the kitchen sink.) This can help you reduce wasted hot water, can be visually marked. Hence, family members know where to position it for safe hot water temperatures, and is easy to use after arthritis has started to affect your fingers and hands.
• A central vacuum system. Its parts are not as heavy to push as most freestanding vacuum cleaners.
• A garbage disposal activated by a pressure-button switch that’s inches away from the faucet, so it’s accessible without your bending to open a cabinet or to walk several steps to flip a switch.
• Well-planned task and reading lighting that doesn’t create shadows. Don’t forget lights that illuminate countertops or are mounted under upper cabinets.
• Lots of electrical outlets for your holiday decorations, both indoors and outside, so everything plugs in nearby. No point in having the confusion or hazards of extension cords, power strips, or overloaded circuits.
• Magnetic drawer and cabinet locks that release and latch via a single remote-control button control an entire room or outdoor area. This is the least awkward and most secure type of childproof lock we’ve seen, especially if you mount the control unit high on a wall where adults can easily see and reach it while kids cannot. Grandparents with arthritis will wildly applaud this system, compared to the typical plastic door locks that require considerable skill to release. (These magnetic locks also secure drawers or cabinets in overnight guestrooms that you use when your guests are gone, or in any rental properties you own and store some possessions in.)
• Wall-mounted intercoms in every room and outdoor living area (don’t forget the garage), for talking to anyone on your property without having to walk over to them physically. This also eliminates using what might be dirty or full hands to dial and hold a cell phone you might use to call people elsewhere in the house.
• A light switch or knee-level motion sensor at the top and bottom of every stairway controls adequate lighting from above. Motion sensors are especially handy wherever your hands are often too full to reach for a switch easily. That light from above is more critical for people with vision problems than light from fixtures down at the stair level.
• A bathroom near the family entrance for quick cleanups for limiting the mess that gets tracked inside when someone’s coming home dirty. It’ll also prevent rushing through the house — and risking a fall — when nature calls while you’re working outside or just arriving home.