If you’ve already found your forever home, it is wise to consider long term factors when designing for a remodel. When designing a bathroom for aging in place, safety and accessibility are key. Planning space that accommodates wheelchairs, walkers, limited mobility and more can a long way in helping family members feel independent and safe at any stage of life.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal trauma related hospital admission among older adults. Resulting in more than 2.8 million injuries and 800,000 hospitalizations, the risk of falling should be taken seriously. The bathroom is a notoriously dangerous space for elderly people as there is an increased risk of falling due to slippery surfaces or transfer motions.
If a bathroom is poorly laid out, or doesn’t have the right accessibility aids in place, it can become an extremely unsafe environment for those with limited mobility. When creating a bathroom for seniors or plans to age in place, it should be easy to move around in, easy to reach the necessities and well equipped with accessibility support.
Discussing the concepts of universal design, your bathroom should be functional for people of all abilities. When planning the dimensions of your space, a good place to start is with the door. To comply with ADA standards, a doorway should have a minimum opening of 32 inches with a hinged door open at 90 degrees. Under the sink there should be an area of clearance that is 27” high, 30” wide and 11-25” deep.
Again, accessibility is key here. A curbless or zero-threshold shower is a shower that has no lip at the entrance. This means that wheelchairs and walkers can easily slide into the shower. Not having to lift your leg to enter the shower is also great for all other forms of limited mobility. This style of shower doesn’t even necessarily need a door, as you can design the floor to have a slight angle to slope toward the drain. You can also opt for trench drains around the shower or along the back wall to help keep water in the designated bathing area.
You can also consider installing a built-in seating area for ease of showering. This design feature, partnered with strategically placed safety bars is what creates an accessible shower for everyone. Perhaps the most crucial step in designing your shower is choosing a non-slip floor. Whether you choose a textured tile or some type of wood or LVP, grip is of utmost importance on your shower floor.
If you need a bathtub in your aging in place bathroom, a walk-in tub may be the way to go. The user simply opens the side panel and steps into the tub while it still dry, then fill, bathe, and drain before stepping back out. The walk-in tub eliminates the sometimes dangerous step of climbing over the edge of a tub.
Strategically placed grab bars can be lifesavers (literally) in slippery situations. They can also be handy for helping seniors move with ease throughout the bathroom. It is important to have grab bars in the shower, especially near the controls. Ideally you could have a grab bar on every wall of the shower for maximum safety. You should also consider a grab bar next to the toilet.