Increasingly, as the baby boomers age, a good percentage of the population will be over age 65. Some of these older adults bought their condominiums in the 1980s, and are now having to deal with the lack of accessibility or safety in these older buildings. Making changes to condominiums to provide accessibility for seniors would not only limit legal liability, but also enhance experience of owners. These accessibility alterations can also be done economically.
There are a few projects in particular which corporations can do to help make older buildings accessible for seniors.
Flooring – should be durable with a simple design following the natural flow of the hallway, leading to elevators and exits. There should also be proper light and dark contrast for those with low vision. For example, this would allow someone with blindness or low vision to run his or her hand along the wall easily for support and identify any signage or handles, making sure the contrast is close enough to the wall.
Raised Transitions in Doorways – this may be an issue that can have conflicting views with respect to fire codes verses safety and accessibility. The transition is important to control the spread of fire between hallways and units. However, they are also a major tripping hazard. In this case, you must replace the door if removing the transition, and products such as special door sweeps can ensure fire safety. Make sure beforehand that these products are approved by the local fire inspector.
Lighting – focus on improving diffusion and reducing shadowed areas. Avoid light/dark patterns which can be confusing. Test out the lighting beforehand. These upgrades may also save you in energy bills.
Décor and Finishes – ensure wall surfaces help to properly diffuse light to minimize shadow, ensure the wall colour contrasts with the floor, make door frames, units, and elevators contrasting colours to the wall, and make fire exit doors a different contrasting colour.
These simple alterations can assist in ensuring the condominiums’ lighting, flooring, and wall finishes work together in safety and design, to ensure proper accessibility for seniors.
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