Home is where your heart is. That is why, for most people, when it comes time to consider options like nursing facilities or assisted living, almost no one wants to leave their home. In fact, a 2014 study by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found that among people 65 and older, 87 percent wanted to “age in place.”
The problem with aging in place, however, is that our homes are not designed to accommodate the unique needs of the elderly. The bathroom is a prime example of a space that isn’t designed for the elderly. It is too easy to slip and fall in the shower, and if you have a bathtub, you might find that it is difficult for an elderly person to climb inside. Sinks and other fixtures aren’t convenient for people in wheelchairs, and storage can become very inconvenient to people who can no longer bend and twist to look for the things that they need.
If you’d like to age in place, then it is never too early to start designing a home that accommodates people of all ages and abilities.
Read on to learn how to create a safe, convenient and elder-friendly bathroom.
Start With the Bathtub or Shower
For a home that is designed around aging in place, the bathtub or shower is one of the most important elements. Consumer Reports tells us that 235,000 people wind up in the emergency room each year due to injuries that occur while showering, taking a bath or using the bathroom. Tub and shower bases with slip-free surfaces can eliminate a majority of these injuries. When it comes to the design of the tub or shower, there are a variety of choices:
• Install a basic stand-up shower with a slip-free shower base. If you have a small shower, make sure to enlarge it so that there is extra room for seating, a walker or other equipment.
• Curbless showers are another great option. These showers don’t have the small ledge along the edge of the shower, meaning that there is less chance that you’ll trip when entering. These showers also make it easier to maneuver walkers as you enter.
• If you’d rather not give up the luxury of a hot bath, then consider a walk-in tub. You’ll pay a premium price for this type of bathtub, but if you enjoy soaking in the tub, then the extra investment might very well be worth it.Consider Toilets and Sinks
Consider Toilets and Sinks
One of the major challenges that seniors face within their own homes is that many of the vital amenities aren’t positioned in a way that makes them easy to use. Many toilet seats, for instance, are placed lower than 17 inches from the floor, making it difficult for the elderly to stand up or sit down. If this sounds like your toilet, consider installing a new toilet that is between 17 and 19 inches in height or use a height-adjustable toilet seat.
When it comes to the bathroom sink, there are several things that you can do to make them more accommodating as you get older.
• Install a wall-mounted sink rather than a traditional sink dropped into a vanity. This will give you space underneath the sink for someone who is seated or in a wheelchair.
• Don’t hesitate to create split-level countertops. Lower countertops are perfect for seated people and people in wheelchairs, while higher countertops are easier to use if you are standing.
• If you’d rather not have split-level countertops, consider installing an adjustable counter instead. This is the more expensive of the two options, but you’ll be able to place the countertop at the perfect height in a variety of situations.
There are a multitude of other things that you can do to make sure that your bathroom is ready for you to age in place. Here is a quick list:
• Widen doorways to make it easier for you to maneuver with walkers or other aids.
• Install grab bars in useful places, such as by the toilet or inside the shower. When they aren’t needed, grab bars can easily double as towel racks.
• Update lighting throughout to make it easier for you to see — especially inside the shower and above the sink.
• Skip knobs in favor of U-shaped drawer pulls that are easier to grasp.
• Instead of cabinets, install drawers. This way, you won’t have to get on your hands and knees to rummage through the back of your cabinetry.
The best part about designing a bathroom around aging in place is that your bathroom doesn’t need to resemble a bland, sterile hospital environment. Instead, you can create something that is both beautiful and convenient for people of all ages.
Our Guest Author Bio: Erica Garland is Content Marketing Manager at Modern Bathroom located in Southern California. She has 15 years of experience in the bathroom renovation industry. Modern Bathroom sells a variety of products you would need for any bathroom renovation project. With such a large selection of vanities, faucets, sinks, toilets and bathtubs for sale, Modern Bathroom is sure to have the perfect piece to give your bathroom an updated look.