Tips to Make Your Home More User-friendly

Home, Home & Family, Living Green
on September 22, 2002

Universal design is a concept used by architects and designers to create a house that is timeless, user-friendly, and can be lived in and enjoyed by many people regardless of their age or physical limitations. It doesnt take a lot of money or massive changes. You can make your home user-friendly with some simple improvements while increasing its value and making it more livable.

A house rarely has enough lighting, yet good lighting is important for just about everything you do there. A kitchen needs plenty of general illumination, but a single fixture in the ceiling probably isnt enough. Consider upgrading the fixture to a large fluorescent unit that will increase the lighting and at the same time be energy-efficient.

Older eyes need increased lighting, especially when working at a kitchen counter. Thin strips of under-cabinet lighting installed on the underside of cabinets provide good light source for counter work. Just install them underneath the cabinet, plug in, and theyll make chopping vegetables or reading a recipe much easier.

To control a rooms lighting, replace a standard light switch with a dimmer switch. Or install a new sensor-operated switch that automatically adjusts the lighting in a room to the proper level or even turns on the lights when someone enters. These upgrades give a custom-touch to a home, yet theyre inexpensive and require only simple wiring.

Another wiring upgrade that goes a long way to improve a house is replacing an old thermostat with a new programmable device. The unit automatically raises or lowers the heat or air conditioning to match your lifestyle. Choose one with large controls and easy-to-read numbers.

Opening and closing a door should be easy for everyone, but most round doorknobs are difficult to grasp, especially if you have tennis elbow or arthritis. Even a not-so-handy homeowner can replace an old doorknob with a new lever-style handle and transform the appearance of the door and make it more user-friendly.

Lever handles are a good choice for sink faucets, too, because they eliminate the strain of gripping a slippery, wet faucet handle. Because many of todays plumbing fixtures are designed for do-it-yourself installation, youre practically guaranteed good results.

Features that make a house low-maintenance also improve its value and lifetime-livability. For example, a yard and landscape that require infrequent weeding and watering make living there easy and a bonus if its put on the market. Drought-resistant plantings such as woolly yarrow and lavender cotton and ground covers such as lily of the valley and sweet woodruff stifle weeds but still are attractive in flowerbeds.

And finally, you can extend the use of outdoor space in the evening with the addition of low-voltage lights around a patio or deck. These illuminate pathways and entrances, making them a nice safety feature.