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Housing & Universal Design

Many older adults are no longer able to maintain the homes where they have lived for years — in neighborhoods where they established lives and relationships and raised their families. Housing options such as apartments, duplexes and condos allow older adults to downsize, eliminate or reduce yard work and maintain close relationships with neighbors, but many neighborhoods don't have enough multi-family buildings available to fill the need.

The housing needs of an expanding older population will require the community to renovate residential properties to better accommodate the needs of those who wish to remain in their existing homes and neighborhoods, and to support the construction of new housing in locations and of types of meet their diverse needs.

KC Communities for All Ages will encourage appropriate housing renovations and promote new housing choices in accessible locations.

What can we do?

  • Integrate older adults into local land use and community planning processes.
  • Develop policies to promote housing options for older adults.
  • Develop housing and housing programs for older adults.
  • Encourage the use of universal design in residential buildings.

For housing resources, visit our Online Resources and Regional Resources pages.

Visit our Events page for past Housing Workshop event information and materials.

Universal Design

Is your home comfortable and safe for all ages and abilities?

"Universal design" is an innovative form of problem solving used to make buildings and homes easy to use for all populations. Universal design is smart design - you can use it to create a home that is flexible, adaptable, with efficient space to accommodate everyone's needs and/or requirements, regardless of age or ability. Your home will be welcoming to visitors of all ages and abilities, as well as accommodate your changing needs.

Whether you build a new home or remodel your current home, incorporating universal design features may allow you to remain in your home as you grow older and your abilities change. You may not need universal design features right now, but by incorporating universal design concepts when planning a remodeling project, it will be easier and less costly to plan ahead for future needs.

There are numerous universal design elements and features that provide maximum convenience and livability. No-step entrances, wide doorways and open floor plans that provide 5 feet of turning space in all rooms are typical features of homes with universal design. Typically, at least one bedroom and an accessible bathroom are located on the ground level, along with accessible kitchen and living areas.

Other universal design features include:

  • Raised electrical outlets and rocker-panel light switches.
  • Parking with no curb between the driveway and walkway.
  • Large, roll-in shower. 
  • Removable lower cabinets or cabinet doors to allow wheelchair accessibility.
  • Grab bars in the tub and shower and around the toilet.
  • Elevated, front-loading washer and dryer.
  • Raised dishwashers or dishwasher drawers.
  • Roll-out trays and Lazy Susans in cabinets to provide easier access.
  • Easy-to-read and reach appliance controls.
  • Brighter lighting and/or layers of lighting.
  • Slip resistant flooring/tile floor in bathrooms.
  • Lever/flapper handles on doors throughout entire house.
  • Single lever faucets throughout entire house.
  • Contrasting colors at flooring level changes such as stairs, or with change of surfaces, such as from tile to wood.
  • Smooth transitions at thresholds and between flooring types.
  • No tripping obstacles, such as area rugs.

"Visitable" homes

Incorporating a minimal level of universal design, a visitable home is one that can accommodate all visitors. A visitable home includes the following:

  • Unobstructed route from a public sidewalk, driveway or garage to an entry.
  • At least one entry without steps.
  • Doorways wide enough to accommodate most mobility devices (typically a minimum of a two-foot-ten-inch door).
  • Living space on the entry level.
  • Route throughout the entry level accessible by someone in a wheelchair.
  • Toilet and lavatory on the entry level.
  • Access to a kitchen on the entry level.
  • Outlets and switches at a reachable height.

More information


Universal Design in Parks - 2016 Report on Universal Design Charrettes in Blue Springs, Missouri, and Roeland Park, Kansas

Accessible public places and spaces are key features of communities for all ages. In 2016 KC Communities for All Ages, AARP Missouri, Blue Springs, Missouri, and Roeland Park, Kansas, worked together on a project to demonstrate how the built environment can be made more all-ages friendly through the application of universal design features in a park setting.

This report was produced on the process and outcomes of the Universal Design park charrette. For more information, contact Cathy Boyer-Shesol, Project Manager, KC Communities for All Ages.

Read report »

For housing resources, visit our Online Resources and Regional Resources pages.

Visit our Events page for past Housing Workshop event information and materials.