It is an unfortunate truth that our bodies lose coordination, flexibility, and balance as we age. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. This results in a senior being treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds, and one passing away from a fall every 19 minutes. These statistics do not mean that you should be afraid to be active as you get older. It just means that stagnation can worsen your health. Preferably, it is important to take preventative measures, such as installing an aging-in-place bathroom where possible to help avoid accidents.
Aging in Place Bathrooms Can be Beautiful Spaces Too
As they age, people prefer to stay in their own homes as long as possible. However, many homes do not age well along with the senior. Specifically, aging doesn’t go well with bathrooms. Due to the slippery nature of hard surfaces and water, nearly 235,000 people a year go to the emergency room because of injuries sustained from showering, bathing, or using the facilities. These injuries are often due to a combination of reasons.
One is denial on the part of the aging person. (Think of protests such as, “Oh, I don’t need grab bars. I’m not that old yet!”) Another frequently cited reason is aesthetics. People fear the beautiful bathroom that they’ve put lots of work into over the years will look institutional—an idea they find depressing. However, this is now changing as some of the latest design trends can make your space more accessible to navigate and safer.
For starters, there is finding for the need of the right lighting. A dimly lit space can lead to bad depth perception and accidents. Try introducing natural light from a skylight or window. Sconces on the sides of a mirror help to eliminate distracting glare and can light a space well. Also, think about a night light in the bathroom and the hallway outside the bathroom.
Widening the doorway is an important aspect to consider, especially if someone needs assistive devices such as a walker, cane, or wheelchair. Try removing the raised sill and widening the doorway about 36 inches. If possible, have the door open out, not inward, so in case of a fall that person is not blocking access by being in front of the door. A lever handle can also be easier to open than a standard knob.
Having a toilet at the correct height can make a huge difference. Usually, people tend to like their toilets higher, as this makes it easier to get up and down from the seat. You can do this by either purchasing a taller toilet or as a cheaper option, getting a seat extender. Also, ensure that there is a grab bar next to the toilet and that the toilet paper holder is easily within reach.
Additionally, a toilet-bidet combination may be a great idea to help improve hygiene for those with dexterity issues in their hands.
Try open shelving for easier access to items. Glass shelving can be a nice, modern touch for this. Be sure to keep them tidy so you can find things easily.
Create a Large, Walk-in Shower
A large, walk-in shower that doesn’t have a step or lip is convenient for someone with assistive devices. They also are beneficial for small children or pets. Try attaching the handheld showerhead to an integrated grab bar. These can also be adjustable regarding height to accommodate different people using the shower. A hose that is at least six feet long should be adequate.
Be sure also to add a seat (a foldable one is great for when it is not in use). Finally, check that there is lots of good lighting, and add a way to keep toiletries within easy reach, such as a shelf or cubby.
A walk-in tub that fills and drains only from the inside is a good option for many people. If you are still a bit more mobile, a bathtub with a wide edge that you can sit down on first and swing your legs over also works well. An aging-in-place tub should take into account future mobility needs. Tub-to-shower conversions give you a spacious shower with all the safety features in the same footprint as your existing tub.
Grab bars are a necessity for aging in place bathroom. The good news is that modern designs can integrate them with other designs, so they don’t look institutional and unsightly. There are also grab bars on the market that function as toilet paper holders or shelves, as well as versions that match other fixtures such as towel racks and faucets.
The primary reason that bathrooms are a leading place for falls is that water and hard surfaces make a dangerous combination. While obviously something like carpet in a bathroom is a bad idea due to mold concerns, try a textured surface to provide more traction. Slip-resistant tile, vinyl, and smaller tiles surrounded by grout are all good options.
The tile industry has created a slip-resistance test that measures the friction of different types of flooring. The higher the number, the more slip resistance exists. Look for something 0.42 or higher. Our slip-resistant 100% non-porous acrylic options are a durable, scrub-free, and anti-microbial solution.
Different Sink Heights
Having double sinks, each at different heights is a great solution for multiple members in a family. Try wall-mounting the sinks and leaving lots of space underneath in case someone is in a wheelchair. Faucets with lever handles are easier to clutch as well.
While not every fall can be prevented, an aging-in-place bathroom is an easy, common-sense measure to help avert an accident. Call us today to let us assess your needs and create a beautiful, customized option just for you.
“Aging in Place Bathrooms”. Age in Place.
“Create a Beautiful Bathroom for the Ages.” Consumer Reports.
“Falls Prevention Facts.” National Council on Aging.