According to a recent United States Aging Survey, 90% of senior citizens plan on staying in their homes for at least another decade. Retirees may be physically more active and living longer, but they should also consider not only today’s needs but also those of their future. The best way to do this is to remodel their home beautifully and fashionably, yet also include better function and more convenience for later. Aging residents must consider how they currently use their home and what changes will make it easier to live in as they age in place.
One of the most important rooms to consider remodeling first is the bathroom. Frankly, most bathrooms are designed for young homeowners with children. In general, a standard restroom is not safe for those who may be disabled or elderly. This space is used every day and can become dangerous if an aging-in-place bathroom design hasn’t been considered.
Studies show that nearly 235,000 people end up in the emergency room every year due to injuries from slipping and falling on hard surfaces while in the bathroom.
The Appropriate Aging-in-Place Bathroom Design
To ensure ease of use, convenience, and maximum safety for seniors, the proper aging-in-place bathroom design is a must. It may take time and money to create the perfect design, but it is definitely worth the investment. Fortunately, many of the latest design trends for bathrooms, such as more natural lighting, large walk-in showers, and higher toilet seats, are also the same suggestions to make bathrooms safer, more ergonomic, and easier to use.
While public spaces are required to follow the rules put in place by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), homeowners can make their homes more functional and safer without following these strict guidelines. This helps keep bathrooms and other areas of the house from potentially looking cold and hospital-like after remodeling.
Below are some solutions to consider for your aging-in-place bathroom design.
Aging-in-Place Bathroom Design Ideas
For convenience, a full bathroom should be located on the main level of the house near a bedroom, kitchen, and common areas. This eliminates the need for going up and downstairs. If it’s impossible to expand a half bath or add a full bath to the first floor, consider installing a chair lift on the staircase to better access the upper floors.
Room to Move
With an aging in place bathroom design, the first issue to overcome is to realize that open space becomes a greater need with age. The entry door to the bathroom should be 36″ wide with a flat surface entry, so remove any raised sills. Anyone with a walker, cane, assistive devices, or a wheelchair should easily access the space. Switch the doorknob to a lever handle, and if possible, hang the door, so it opens out and not in. That way, it won’t be blocked if someone falls against it.
Additionally, there should be enough floor space to maneuver around the sink, toilet, cabinetry, or in and out of the shower while using an assistive device.
The Right Lighting
The proper lighting is also critical to the best aging in place bathroom design. The bathroom and its occupants will benefit from combining both ambient and task lighting. Glare can be an issue for aging eyes; therefore, sconces on each side of the mirror are superior to an overhead light. Even easier on the eyes is natural light from a skylight or window. Specific task lighting can assist with grooming duties, and a night light for midnight trips will keep the area safer, too.
A smooth floor covered in splashed water is a bad accident just waiting to happen—exchange marble floors or other slippery floors (vinyl, etc.) with something textured or slip-resistant. There are many ceramic tiles with a non-slip surface, or consider using small mosaic tiles with sanded grout for flooring with more friction.
To prevent falls, you can also add a slip-resistant coating to the floor of the shower, bathtub, or the entire bathroom floor. The best aging-in-place bathroom design could include a rubber-type surface to ensure it won’t get slippery even when very wet. For tight budgets, the least expensive solution is to use rubber-backed slip-resistant mats in areas where water may drip or splash. For added safety, fasten the rugs to the floor with rug tape.
One difficult maneuver for the elderly – or anyone with mobility issues – is getting in and out of the bathtub. There are some bathtubs available with wide edges to allow the person to sit down first and then swing their legs over the side into the tub. There are also walk-in tubs with small doors on the side that open before filling. These can be very helpful for those seniors who prefer a bath to a shower.
Doors, Seats, and Shower Heads
Instead of a shower curtain, installing a sturdy door is a better idea for an aging-in-place bathroom design. A glass shower door will keep the bathroom floor dry while providing increased stability. If the homeowner loses their balance and needs to lean against the door, they are less likely to fall.
A shower seat or chair is also a convenient addition to bathing, especially if the homeowner has hip or back problems, arthritis, or other ailments. Adding an adjustable, non-slip chair or built-in seat is more secure and will offer relief from standing and prevent a fall. Additionally, installing an adjustable or removable handheld shower head is also a bonus. It allows the resident to ensure cleanliness by moving the water spray to where it is needed, now and in the future. These showerheads are attached to a sliding bar and can be transferred to any height. Easy to install, these shower heads are perfect for those who combine sitting and standing when bathing.
Curbless showers are most convenient for anyone in a wheelchair or using a walker. Consider removing the bathtub and replacing it with a walk-in type. This allows the homeowner to enter the shower without having to step over the side of the bathtub or a curb.
Install Grab Bars
Grab bars are vitally important in a bathroom. When surfaces are wet, they help with balance while going in and out of the shower or tub and on and off the toilet. Attach them to extra bracing in the walls because they typically need to support 250 to 300 pounds. Use textured bars for a better grip and increased safety. Place grab bars inside the shower or tub and at their entrance. Also, install them near the toilet for easier standing and sitting.
Something as simple as bathing can be disastrous if the bathroom does not have the right features for aging in place. The New York Times reports that 1/3 of senior citizens will injure themselves while showering or bathing. An injury can be life-threatening if a homeowner slips and falls.
Keeping Things Handy
Easy access storage is another important aspect of aging in place bathroom design. Open shelves or glass-front doors will allow the homeowner to see what they have and whether they need to buy more toilet paper, soap, shampoo, etc. To make the bathroom more friendly to those with limited reach, place cabinets lower to the floor to accommodate them and use D-shaped pulls instead of knobs for easy open and close.
About the Sink
With aging in place in mind, use a wall-mounted sink, so there’s room underneath for a wheelchair. Add a faucet with lever handles for more effortless water flow. Or consider designing a countertop with two heights for different family members. One counter could be lower to make it more accessible for both small children and their grandparents.
Countertops should be narrow, so the back of it is easy to reach – just in case that tube of lipstick rolls away. Eliminate sharp edges for fewer injuries, or use a contrasting color on the counter’s edge to highlight the distinction for aging eyes.
Consider the Toilet Height
Another vital aging in place bathroom design has to do with the toilet height. This is another area where the design can increase safety and lower stress for aging residents.
It may seem unimportant, but for someone who struggles to sit or stand, this is essential. Upgrading a standard 15-inch tall toilet to 17 to 19 inches offers more comfort and stability. A proper height makes it easier for someone with mobility issues, taller seniors, and on a homeowner’s back and knees. Be sure that the toilet paper holder is also within easy reach.
If the cost of a new toilet is beyond the budget, there are raised toilet seats or seat extenders for less than $50.
Other Design Ideas You Should Keep in Mind:
- If the toilet is being replaced, consider installing a bidet/toilet combination. This could improve hygiene significantly for the homeowners as they age.
- Add a full-length mirror or a tilting mirror in the bathroom. This will make it easier for everyone to see themselves from anywhere within the room, especially from a seated position. The medicine cabinet/mirror above the sink may be too high to use appropriately.
- Check the water heater for temperature levels. A safety improvement that is easy to make is to install an anti-scalding device on the sink and the shower/bathtub faucets.
- Put medicines and toiletries in a lower cabinet, so it’s within easy reach while seated.
- Install a land-line telephone in the bathroom that can be reached from anywhere in the room. Accidents happen every day, so calling 911 will be easier.
Find the Right Design-Build Firm for Your Aging-in-Place Bathroom Design
Design Tech Remodeling features Kohler products in each kitchen and bathroom remodel. View the above videos to learn about the various options that are offered.
You want to live in your home for many more years in safety, convenience, comfort, and style. You dream of a home that is designed around your current and future needs. However, aging in place bathroom design modifications must be done by the right people who are experienced, professional, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.
But how do you find the right firm? Talk to the professionals at Design Tech Remodeling. Located in Mequon, Wisconsin, Design Tech Remodeling will customize your home using its award-winning experience and knowledge. They will turn your bathroom, kitchen, or lower level into the living space of your dreams for you to age in place.
The Design Tech Remodeling team will walk you through the process and be there to answer all your questions. They will advise you on the fixtures, cabinet styles, and other features and work with you to create what you need and want.
The First Step Working with Design Tech Remodeling
You’ll begin with a complimentary in-home consultation with a designer who will discuss your project and listen to your ideas. Your time together includes establishing a realistic budget as they review the space and determine your priorities.
Design Tech Remodeling provides their clients with a comprehensive proposal which details the products used, provided services, and the entire scope of the project. This proposal will give you a complete description of the timeline, the costs, and the process, so there are no surprises or misunderstandings. Once you approve the proposal, the remodeling process will begin.
Aging-in-Place Interior Designs
Once some initial decisions are made regarding products and overall style, a design will be prepared, considering how you live in your home now and what you’ll need in the future. Highly skilled carpenters and project managers handle all construction with great attention to detail to ensure quality craftsmanship.
The goal of Design Tech Remodeling is to offer solutions to add value to your lifestyle and your home. The result will be the home of your dreams for many years to come. Contact Wisconsin’s award-winning home remodeling firm, Design Tech Remodeling today!