The bathroom is one of the most dangerous areas of the house for the elderly. In fact, more people aged 65-85 hurt themselves because they slipped and fell in the bathroom. It’s tragic that simply using the tub, shower, or the toilet led to a more serious trip to the emergency room.
So if you plan to age in place, you need to renovate your bathroom with the universal design in mind. Universal design makes the bathroom accessible and safe for people at any age or condition. To know how you can future-proof our bathroom, I consulted the Sydney architects of Superdraft Pty. Ltd. in Australia. Their team leads in building stylish and accessible designed bathrooms. Here are 11 items that help us age-proof the bathroom:
- Shower bench
A shower bench is a safe area to sit while you’re inside the shower, reducing the chances of slipping or falling. It also relaxes your body as you take a bath.
Your renovation budget should tell you in what kind of bench you should have. For those who can splurge, a built-in, tiled shower bench is for you. If you’re working on a tight budget, purchase a waterproof, freestanding bench that you can use the bathroom.
- Handheld shower heads
When you go shopping for showerheads, look for handheld showerheads that have an adjustable height. Install them near your shower bench or tub so you can wash up even when you’re seated.
- Grab bars
Install grab bars because it can save your life. You can hold onto it as you enter and exit the tub or shower. Ergonomically speaking, place grab bars perpendicular to each other. Add another one outside the shower so you have something to cling to as you walk to the door.
- High, floating vanity
To be honest, the standard 31½ inch height of a bathroom vanity is not always comfortable for most people. Some hurt their back because they need to hunch back when washing up. So, talk to your designer about raising the vanity’s height to 34-34½ inches. This makes the vanity the same height as your kitchen counters. This height is also wheelchair friendly.
- Comfort-height toilets
The height of toilets varies depending on the brand and style. Some are less than 16inches high! As we all know, low toilet height makes it harder to sit and stand. It also strains our back and knees.
So when you go shopping for a new toilet, purchase the comfort-height ones. It’s taller—it’s about 17-19inches high.
- Low-maintenance shower glass (on no glass at all)
Glass partitions, especially clear ones, look great in the bathroom but require more maintenance. Be extra careful when cleaning them.
There is a low-maintenance, heavy-duty construction glass you can use in the shower, but it comes in a hefty price. You can always get rid of the glass and embrace an open shower design.
- Porcelain wall and floor tiles
Superdraft architects recommend porcelain tiles because it’s a durable material. If you have a porcelain bath when you’re 39, it will remain beautiful and functional until you reach 75. It’s also easier to clean—you can wash the surface dirt with rag and water.
- Rough floors
A glossy bathroom floor is beautiful yet dangerous. Don’t be deceived by its shine! Choose a flooring material that’s slip resistant.
It’s a good thing that textured porcelain tiles are being produced nowadays. Rough travertine tiles are also ideal for bathrooms and pool sides but it’s susceptible to etching.
- Proper bathroom lighting
Good bathroom lighting is bright but doesn’t produce glare. If your bathroom lighting strains your eyes, you need to make an adjustment. Illuminate your bathroom using natural light, recessed lights, vanity lights, or lamps.
- Step-free shower entry
A flat shower entry reduces the risk of tripping before of after a shower. Also, a zero step shower entry is more accessible to someone in a wheelchair. If you forgo this kind of shower, make sure that the shower floor is sloped for better water draining.
- Narrow lip tub entrance
Finally, if you want a secured, tiled tub, make the entry lip narrow. As you step over a large and thick tub entrance, the gap in between your legs become larger, making it harder to balance. You can avoid accidents with narrower lips because your legs remain close to each other, making you more stable.
If you’re ready to future-proof your bathroom, it is important to engage an expert bathroom builder. Hiring them will take the stress of renovation process off your shoulders. Pros also know the specific building materials and bathroom designs you need to achieve an age-proof bathroom. ∎