The Five Types of AIP Design and How They Impact Aging Adults

You’re ready to begin your aging in place project, but the design options seem infinite. You know there are some basic features, but the design must be right for you, your friends, and your family.

Choosing the right design is key to having a safe, comfortable home that is perfect for your needs, both now and in the future. Here are the five designs elements to consider when planning your renovation project.

3 Identifiable Segments

There are three different identifiable segments within the aging-in-place market. The following five design categories almost always have an approach to meet the needs of everyone in these segments.

The first of those segments is AIP without urgent needs. This segment includes those who want to age in place but are not currently experiencing any significant or immediate health issues. Generally, they prefer a universal design.

The AIP segment with progressive condition-based needs includes those who have chronic or progressive conditions. For this segment to age in place successfully, they require special modifications and features to their home. Most are aware of their needs but addressing them is not always an urgent matter.

The last segment, AIP with traumatic needs, includes those who have experienced an abrupt or traumatic change. Usually, accommodating modifications are necessary in order for them to age in place.

Universal Design

If you’re looking for an aging-in-place home with an environment that can be used by everyone, universal design is a great way achieve it. This design principle focuses on the convenience and function of a home by making it safer, easier to use, and more comfortable. As you begin to think of your friends and family, universal design becomes a central theme for living by embracing safety and convenience. When integrated well, universal design becomes almost invisible.

There are seven principles that guide universal design and serve as a starting point for all other aging-in-place designs. By speaking with your Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) contractor, you can learn how to incorporate them into your home renovation project. They include:

  • Equitable Use – design that’s useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities
  • Flexibility in Use – design that accommodates a range of preference and abilities
  • Simple and Intuitive Use – design that’s easy to understand. regardless of your experience, knowledge, language skills, or concentration level
  • Perceptible Information – design that communicates effectively to you regardless of ambient conditions or sensory abilities
  • Tolerance for Error – design that minimizes hazards and the consequences of accidental or unintended actions
  • Low Physical Effort – design that can be used efficiently and comfortably with low fatigue
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use – design that incorporates appropriate size and space, regardless of the home occupant’s size, posture, or mobility

Adaptable Design

Adaptable design often serves as a main component of many of today’s commercial and industrial buildings, because it allows for different types of use. For example, walls may be added or removed with minimal structural changes for functions of different types or sizes.

Adaptable design for aging in place, takes those same design principles and integrates them into areas of the home that most commonly require changes as you age, such as kitchens, bathrooms, passageways, and entryways. For example, doorways can be framed in a way that allows for a larger door in the future or a moveable partition wall can be installed that works based on an easy to maneuver tract system.

Accessible Design

By incorporating many of the principles from universal design, accessible design addresses your needs if you have a disability. The one difference is that it doesn’t have an obligation for market appeal. For example, accessibility features or assistive technologies are incorporated for you, in the same way custom features are requested by someone renovating a house. These custom features only need to appeal to you, not anyone else.

While there are standards, regulations, and best practices that must be followed with accessible design, you have ultimate say over what your home needs and what will best accommodate you. During the design phase of the project, your CAPS contractor can explain to you what is required.

When it comes to the features of accessible design, accessibility is regulated much more than any other type. For example, tolerances, clearances, heights, widths, and distances can be prescribed by governing entities like a local and state building codes. Again, a CAPS contractor can inform you of all regulations and procedures required, while also offering their insight on how best to approach it. 

Visitable Design

If you are looking for the very basic accessibility, visitable design may be the best option for you. In short, this design allows for a person using a wheelchair to have simple access to the first level, or ground floor, of the home.

Sometimes ramps, lifts, and railings may be needed, but the basis of the house is designed and constructed around the decision to make the main floor visitable. A wheelchair is used as the defining test of the home. If it can make it through barrier free, you successfully live in a visitable home. Those that use walkers and canes are still considered during the design, but generally if a wheelchair can easily navigate a home, walkers and canes can too.

While your guests may not need an attendant or special equipment to roam freely throughout the home, a challenge that many face when designing their home as a visitable resident is its curb appeal. With wider sidewalks and entry elevations, there is much less space to create an attractive landscape or hardscape. By working with your contractor, you can come up with many solutions to give your home the curb appeal you desire. Site constraints must be considered, but your contractor will navigate and direct you towards the most viable results.

 Livable Design

If you don’t want to be just a guest in a home, a livable design approach is similar to visitability but has added features. Not only will the main floor be accessible, but this will extend to the functionality within the home, including the bedrooms and bathrooms. Often times, it is a voluntary option. Some municipalities will even offer tax incentives or permit fast-tracking as encouragement to include these livable features.

If you’re interested in creating a livable space to reside in, here are a few elements that make them inclusive, flexible, and convenient:

  • Entries focus on thresholds, approach, weather protections, and circulation
  • The design and location of the bedroom offers a comfortable place to retreat
  • The bathroom focuses on shower design, circulation, and reinforcement for ease of access
  • Kitchens have improved functionality with additional circulation space and flexible work surfaces
  • Outlets and light switches are more accessible
  • Wider doorways and hallways
  • Stairs are designed to give peace of mind in multilevel homes

Choosing the design of your home can have a huge impact on how you age in place. If you are unsure of the best design for your specific project, please feel free to ask us today!