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Universal design can be defined as ‘broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities’. In short, a home that is safe, secure and savvy for everyone, age no bar.

It is a concept gaining currency world over and senior living design takes it even further. As Alnesh Somji, director, Gagan Properties, tells us, “We need to address needs arising not only from the natural human ageing process but also the various physical and mental challenges faced by seniors on account of various disabilities.” We present some of his key takeaways across various parameters.


  • Safety is the key, along with ease and comfort.
  • All aspects of design, materials, equipment and process should flow into each other.
  • Ensure easy navigation of the resident from one area to another.
  • Design has to be responsive to the changing needs of the occupant.
  • There must be a clearly accessible emergency call system.


  • Quality flooring is essential to ensure safety and prevent falls—the flooring type should meet safety criteria to minimise falls owing to slippery surfaces, material density or pile height.
  • Choose flooring according to the geography of your location and its climatic condition.
  • Owing to reduced visual acuity and disorders such as difficulty in focusing, delayed glare recovery and loss of depth perception, choose colours wisely—floor coverings in contrasting colours can demarcate the boundary between surfaces as well as the floor and wall.
  • Avoid floor coverings of different types.
  • Tile flooring, which is preferred in India, must meet anti-slip specifications for minimising the risk of falls.
Area Tile specification
Living room, kitchen and covered hallways Tile with a minimum rating of DCOF>=0.42
Bathroom or wet covered areas Tile with a minimum rating of DCOF>=0.60
Open areas subject to elements of nature like water Tile with a minimum rating of DCOF>=0.80

DCOF: Dynamic coefficient of friction

  • If you prefer carpet flooring, choose stain-resistant carpets with a low pile for easy movement and maintenance, ensure adequate padding, and use contrasting colours to easily identify boundaries between the floor and wall.
  • For water-prone areas, use anti-slip floor tiles with a minimum dynamic coefficient of friction. (DCOF) >=0.60
  • Anti-skid tape and mats for showers and other wet areas.

    • All living areas need to be spacious and clutter-free to ensure ease of movement at all times.
    • Wheelchair-accessibility should be ensured and there should be clearly defined pathways.
    • There must be sufficient lighting at all times of day and night with easy-to-access lighting points. Further, the level of illumination should be visually comfortable and safe for mobility.
    • There should ideally be a no-step entry into the living room, or a maximum of ½ inch step entry.


    • Open areas such as the terrace, garden and balcony should be easily accessible (and wheelchair accessible) at all times.
    • They must be well-lit.
    • There should be a no-step entry or a maximum of ½ inch height difference.
    • Ensure that the terrace/balcony is covered. Install safety rails.
    • Flooring tiles at home should have a minimum rating of DCOF>=0.60.
    • All electrical outlets in these areas should conform to outdoor specifications.
    • Garden beds should be uniform to minimise risk of fall.
    • Ensure easy access to an emergency system.

     AIR PURIFIER: With dust, dirt and hair, exposure to pollutants at home is often greater than outdoors and can pose serious health issues. Today’s air purifiers, starting from ₹ 3,000, come with layered filter systems to eliminate allergy-causing pollutants and circulate pure air.

    Available at

     DOOR KNOB GRIPPER: A boon for those with limited hand strength, door knob grippers, beginning at ₹ 149, give you an effortless grip on door knobs and faucet knobs that are usually tight and slippery. Just fit it around the knob and you are good to go.

    Available at

     ORTHOPAEDIC BACK REST: Beginning at ₹ 549, this ergonomic back support can convert your poorly designed chair into a comfort zone. Place it behind you while seated on a sofa, bed or even wheelchair and enjoy cushiony comfort, improved posture and reduced spinal discomfort and pain.

    Available at

     GLOW TAPE: Illuminate your path with tape that glows in the dark. Useful especially at night and during power outages, you can stick this tape, beginning at ₹ 99, on doors, knobs, handrails, stairways, cabinet corners and even switchboards to ensure visibility, even from a distance.

    Available at

     ANTI-SKID SOLUTION: IguanaGrip, priced at ₹ 2,999, is India’s first nanotechnology-based anti-slip coating solution. The treatment guarantees an anti-slip floor within a couple of hours; it is effective on all kinds of tiles and can be used indoors and outdoors. Eco-friendly and odourless, the treatment leaves a fine, microscopic texture on your floor without damaging it.

    Available at

    —Compiled by Sai Prabha Kamath

    Photos: iStock
    Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
    June 2018