The online edition of Forbes magazine ran an article titled, “10 Chic Granny Flats.” I wholeheartedly agree; they all look great.
Whether they’re called Granny Flats, Med Cottages, Granny Pods or something else, they are supposed to help an elderly parent age-in-place safely and stay independent longer. But seven of the ten mini-homes shown in the article have at least one major design flaw that’s clearly visible.
No one likes to think about growing older, but we all will sooner or later. Over time, many — if not most — of us will lose some of our strength and stability. Granny flats should be built to anticipate these future needs by including universal design features.
Examples of Universal Design
- Adapt the main floor of the home for one-level living: No-step entry, with the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, laundry and entertainment area all on the main floor.
- Widen all exterior and interior doorways to 36 inches with offset hinges on the doors: Doorways are often too narrow for walkers and wheelchairs (or someone carrying packages); widening them is a plus for all.
- Install hand-held shower heads and grab bars: Hand-held shower heads and grab bars are some of the least expensive changes you can make and are a great help to people with balance problems.
- Use lever handles on doors and plumbing fixtures: Hand strength can be an issue with all ages. Installing simple lever handles eliminates the struggle with operating doorknobs and faucets.
- Use “comfort height” toilets: Many people who suffer from osteoporosis, arthritis, or temporary injuries find it hard to stand up from a normal height toilet. A higher toilet (or toilet chair that fits over the existing toilet) helps overcome this challenge.
The picture above appeared on the cover of the Forbes article. Again, it’s a great looking granny flat. But instead of a level no-step entry, the home has a two-step entry after taking three steps down from the patio which joins both homes. And the main house’s entry includes another three steps. All-in-all, not very safe if “Granny” has trouble walking or using stairs.
The remedy for these 7 homes: remodeling, perhaps extensive and expensive. On the other hand, all of that could have been avoided if the basics of Universal Design were used when the houses were originally designed.
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