McManus Kitchen and Bath is a Certified Aging in Place contractor (CAPS) and has been remodeling kitchens and bathrooms in Tallahassee, FL for more than 15 years.
Why Aging in Place Bathroom Design?
As we age our home needs change. Unfortunately most older homes, and many newer one were not designed with this in mind. The solution used to be to move into a smaller, single story home or into an assisted care facility.
These days however due to the more people are choosing to remodel their homes so they can ‘age in place’. Often it is more cost effective and there is a benefit to staying in your neighborhood, with friends and family nearby.
Not just for older people
Aging in Place design is a subset of universal design which simple states that a home should work for people of all ages and abilities. I prefer the term universal design as ‘aging in place’ design makes it sound like its just for older people. But anyone, at any age, can twist an ankle or fall ill and benefit from universal design.
Ideally every room in your home would be designed using universal design principles but the bathroom is an especially important place for people who are planning to age in place.
To understand and appreciate the importance of this element of aging in place, you should consider what constitutes ‘aging in place’.
Why Choose Aging In Place Design?
Aging in place is all about the ability to live in your own home independently, rather than moving into a retirement home, moving to a smaller home, or seeking assisted living services.
As you age, your eyesight becomes increasingly poor, you experience diminished strength owing to a reduced muscle mass, your hearing capability and capacity reduces, you become less flexible, and you experienced reduced endurance. Consequently, you end up being prone to accidents.
As such, when making changes to your house or a house belonging to a loved one with aging in place in mind you have to consider all these changes that come with aging. The remodeling design, therefore, will not just focus on aesthetics; functionality and safety are the priority. Herein we will delve into aging in place bathroom design. We will look at what aging in place bathroom design philosophy is and the features to include as far as bathrooms are concerned.
Prioritize Convenience And Safety
Every aging in place bathroom design facet should be well tuned to meet ensure the bathroom is safe and very convenient to use. Given that the bathroom is a room you will use on daily basis, it is important that you negate the risk of falling or encountering any other kind of hazard while using it. Moreover, you should implement a design that will make it easier to use the room.
Some of the age-in-place bathroom design ideas to consider include:
Non Slip Flooring
Slipping, and falling is among the main causes of injuries and death among the elderly and people with mobility impairments. As such, it is paramount that you reduce the risk of slipping and falling to a minimum.
Install flooring that has ample friction, and, therefore, is resistant to slipping. If you are installing a tiled floor, look for tiles that have been rated to produce a very high dynamic coefficient of friction (0.43 and above) when tested for slip-resistance.
Alternatively, you can choose bamboo flooring or cork, which have textured surfaces and offer a gentler surface to walk on or a softer surface to land on in the unfortunate event you fall.
Non slip bath mats can also help. The golden tip is to avoid slippery flooring materials such as slippery rugs and slick materials such as marble.
Install Handrails And Grab Bars –
If you are designing your bathroom for age in place, you must plan for grab bars and handrails. Not only are they cost-effective safety installations, but they are also very effective. Installing grab bars and handrails around the toilet, the shower, and the tub will make it easy for you to use these amenities.
While these safety features have not accrued a reputation for being aesthetically pleasing, modern iterations are more aesthetically pleasing and stylish. Moreover, the most common type of bars and handrails – metals ones – are easy sturdy, easy to use, and easy to clean. As such, you can use them for a long time before needing renovations. If you are not using them right now, you can opt to install the installation brackets and studs, thereby preparing your wall for their installation in the future.
Opt For Curbless Showers
The 4 or 5-inch curbs typical of most showers are also a hazard that increases your susceptibility to tripping and falling. Moreover, the step makes it virtually impossible to roll a wheelchair or roller or just use crutches to get into the shower. As such, considering going with a curbless shower design as it is much safer and more convenient to use.
If you love using the bathtub, you should consider installing a bathtub that suits aging in place design. A bathtub that has a wider edge that you can sit on, and swing your legs into the tub while seated is a good choice.
There are also walk in tubs available that have doors. They can be useful in very specific circumstances but are not the best choice for most people.
Have Proper And Even Lighting
When it comes to lighting fixtures, the goal is to have even installation of the lighting fixtures. This means you should have more ample fixture installed in a wide variety of places in the bathroom. Do not just rely on the overhead lighting fixtures as you might be unable to reach them in case you have mobility problems. As such, consider installing vanity lights around the bathroom mirror, around the wall, and other places.
Incorporate Accessibility Into The Design
Aside from implementing a bathroom design that oozes safety and convenience, you should aim to have an accessible bathroom. In fact, by taking steps to improve the accessibility of the bathroom, you improve its overall convenience and safety.
Add A Bathroom Downstairs
The two story homes in older neighborhoods tend to have the full bathroom upstairs and maybe a half bath downstairs.
As you can appreciate, this makes for a hectic experience especially if you find using the stairs to be too difficult a task. As such, you should consider converting one of the rooms downstairs to a bathroom that you can access when you are in that part of the house. This will make the bathroom facilities in your house accessible no matter where you are.
Widen The Bathroom Door
Part of improving the accessibility of the bathroom is to ensure that you can use despite even when you are using mobility assistive equipment such as crutches, a roller, or even a wheelchair. With this in mind, if your door is too narrow to allow you to use a roller or wheelchair, consider widening it. As part of the aging in place design, ensure that your bathroom doors are at least 36-inches wide. Doors this wide are easy to use regardless of whether you are on a wheelchair or you are using crutches.
While modifying the doorway, you can install doors that swing open outwards. Such doors reduce the risk of blocking the door from the inside should you fall right in front of the door. Moreover, if the bathroom doors have a knob, replace them with a lever handle. These are generally easier to use.
Extra Room For A Walker Or Wheelchair
You need to leave ample space below the bathroom sinks and countertops to gain access to these parts of the bathroom whilst using a roller or a wheelchair. With this in mind, ensure that the countertops and the sink are not only installed in the right positions but they also have room beneath them. In the same light, ensure that the sink and the countertops are the right sizes; you need to reach at the back.
Make The Shower Accessible
When it comes to showering, you want to have access to everything you need. As such, considers installing doorless showers as they allow you to get in and out of the shower with little to no hassle at all. Moreover, opt for a handheld showerhead. Such a shower head typically comes with a removable shower head section that is attached to a 6-foot cord. Furthermore, the lever handle makes it exceptionally easy to use this faucet.
As such, you can use it to reach all areas of your body. Importantly, you can use it to shower even whilst seated.
Invest In Assistive Features And Appliances
The final aspect of implementing aging in place bathroom design is to install features and appliances that will make it easy for you to use the bathroom.
Auto Sensor Night Lighting
This feature not only improves convenience but also increases safety. When you walk into your bathroom, you do not have to guestimate and pat the wall to find the lights switch. The sensor will turn the lights on for you.
Install A Shower Seat
This feature is not only useful when you do not have the strength to shower while standing, but it also makes your showers safe. When it comes to stools, seats, and benches you can either go for the built-in variety or you can use the detachable variety. Either way, you must have a seating feature for a truly aging in place design.
Incorporating these ideas to your project will make for a truly aging in place design. Importantly, it will enable you to live in your home safe, secure, and comfortable as you live through your golden years.