Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Healthcare / Facilities design

European Healthcare Design 2017

Universal design: homes and healthcare buildings for an ageing population

By Diana Anderson, Prof Desmond O'Neil, Thomas Grey and Neil Murphy 26 Jul 2017 0

Universal design promotes environmental compositions that can be accessed, understood and used by all people who contribute to social, economic and cultural life regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.


How can universal design help ageing people live at home and in their communities independently and safely for as long as possible?

Designing and constructing new healthcare buildings, homes, or making alterations to existing buildings that are in line with a universal-design, age-friendly approach supports the aim of facilitating people to live well for as long as possible in their communities, while accessing medical care more easily. This approach also supports family members and health professionals to sustain caring relationships, particularly if they are older people or have a disability themselves.

Purpose: When looking at the design of new homes and medical care buildings, engagement with key stakeholders, reflecting the diversity of occupants, providers and designers, must be carried out. In order to inspire the change in mindset needed to bring universally designed homes and future healthcare buildings into the mainstream, consumer-focused information will be needed to communicate design guidance and act as a catalyst for cultural change in new home design.

Methods: This colloquium will feature architecture, design, clinical gerontology and dementia research experts, who will address the Universal Design Homes for Ireland (UDHI) guidelines. The panel will discuss design-thinking for ageing, and detailed guidance for the application of universal design for dementia-friendly dwellings and communities.

Implications: Living or working in a universally designed home or healthcare building helps avoid the need for re-location or costly building retro-fit works as individual, family, staff or patient needs change over time. Integration of smart infrastructure and energy- efficient systems at the outset of the design avoids costly re-fits and benefits everyone in comfort, efficiency and quality of services. It’s not about a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model – the universally designed home and work environment enable the widest possible number of people to participate at home, in society, and to live independently.