BRINGING UNIVERSAL DESIGN IDEAS TO THE
INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Overton, J. and Pynoos, J. (1999).
in Maximizing Human Potential, Winter (1999)
While many agree that home modification is key to supporting
aging in place, evidence suggests that home modifications
are present in only a small number of homes. Experts
have estimated that more than one million older persons
with health and mobility problems need additional supportive
features in their homes to age in place. Most consumers
simply don't understand what is meant by "home modifications"
and if they do, they do not know how to go about making
changes to their home or selecting products. Two exciting
projects in Southern California addressed these problems
in a very creative, grass roots project.
"Beyond Time, Beyond Space: A Home for All Ages,"
two interactive home modification exhibits, were organized
by the USC Andrus Gerontology Center's Home Modification
Action Project (Home Mods.) with the Pasadena Home Modification
Coalition and the Santa Clarita Home Modification Coalition.
Home modification is multidisciplinary, involving aging,
disability, rehabilitation and housing networks. However,
most "task forces" or groups focus on one or the other
without bringing in professionals and discussions from
all sides. The coalitions represent the many groups
that can make a difference in the availability of home
modification: the building/housing industry; rehabilitation
professionals; social service, aging, advocacy and disability
agencies; the public sector; the voluntary sector; and
consumers. They organize and plan specific educational
activities targeted to several groups: consumers, service
delivery professionals, the corporate sector, and public
While a need for increased home modification was identified
as a goal by both coalition communities, there was a
lack of momentum and interest by professionals and consumers.
In order to convey the importance of home modification,
it was thought that individuals must see, touch, and
feel examples. With Home Mods., the coalitions devised
a plan to create home modification exhibits in easily
accessible community focal points. The purpose was to
demonstrate to consumers and professionals the effectiveness
of universal design and home modifications in ensuring
a safe, comfortable, convenient and accessible dwelling.
Both exhibits were located in donated retail spaces
in upscale shopping areas. The representation of aging,
disability and rehabilitation perspectives on the coalition
ensured that the exhibit addressed diverse needs and
interests. Approximately 30 vendors locally and nationally
donated the home modification and universally designed
products and materials.
Each exhibit was open to the public for free for two
months. The exhibits were visited by almost 5000 individuals.
People of all ages were welcomed in to view innovative
home modification products as an unexpected part of
their trip to shopping or the movies. Young children
rode the stair glide, baby boomers took notes for remodeling
their kitchens, and older individuals appreciate the
simple assistive devices that can make their daily living
much easier. More than 20 groups held their monthly
meetings at the exhibit site (e.g., American Institute
of Architects, Christmas in April) and workshops were
conducted for social service and housing professionals.
For example, the Pasadena Neighborhood Housing Services
held a meeting of lenders at the exhibit site which
focused on financing home modification and universal
design.More than 20 groups held their monthly meetings
at the exhibit site (e.g., American Institute of Architects,
Christmas in April) and workshops were conducted for
social service and housing professionals. For example,
the Pasadena Neighborhood Housing Services held a meeting
of lenders at the exhibit site which focused on financing
home modification and universal design.
Highlights of the exhibition included: 1) The GE New
Home Essentials Living Center: a fully equipped universally
designed kitchen with all ages and needs in mind; 2)
Home Modification Products: Actual products and equipment
-- including portable ramps, bathroom fixtures, roll-in
showers, grab bars, assistive devices, etc. -- from
local and national vendors; 3) Local home modification
efforts. Photos of local homes successfully modified
by local professionals and programs; 4) A Home Resource
Center. Extensive materials about local and national
home modification resources (programs, products, professionals,
etc.) available to all visitors, including free brochures,
checklists and consumer manuals; 5) Videos. Videos that
feature home modifications were continually played at
While the exhibits have closed, the impact they had
on the communities continues. The coalitions have gained
momentum and are now aggressively pursuing other activities
to increase home modification availability and awareness
in the community. Secondly, coalition members who were
not working together prior to the exhibit are now exchanging
ideas and strategies for their own work. In addition,
the exhibit helped groups establish relationships with
home modification product vendors and an understanding
of how altering the home environment can help resolve
clients' problems. In evaluations, over 80% of the visitors
indicated that the exhibit had increased their knowledge
of home modification "a great deal" and nearly 50% indicated
that they would be making a change to their home or
someone they know as a result of visiting the exhibit.
Home Mods. is funded by the Archstone Foundation and
headquartered at the University of Southern California
Andrus Gerontology Center. For more information, visit
Home Mods.'s web site at http://www.homemods.org
or email at email@example.com.
Julie Overton is the Program Manager for the National
Resource Center on Home Modification and the Home Modification
Action Project, both at the USC Andrus Gerontology Center.
Jon Pynoos, Ph.D. is a Professor of Gerontology and
Urban Planning and the Director of the National Resource
Center on Home Modification at the USC Andrus Gerontology
USC Andrus Gerontology Cneter
3715 McClintock Avenue
Los Angelees, CA 90089-0191
(213) 740-1352; fax (213) 740-7069