By Larry Abbott, Abbott Contracting, CAPS
We are redefining what it means to age. Today’s aging population is in better physical condition and more active than generations that came before. Still, as we age, mobility and vision issues can be a cause for concern. Bathrooms can be one of the most dangerous places for an individual as they age and often becomes a priority to remodel.
There are many things to consider when remodeling a bathroom for aging in place to accommodate the future needs for you and your family.
Curbless (walk-in) showers are one of the top aging in place bathroom remodeling projects. For the best access it is recommended to remove the door, change out to sliding doors or doors that swing inward and outward. A built-in bench or fold up seat with an accessible adjustable handheld shower will add comfort and safety. Grab bars are also key in age in place remodels. Ask your remodeler to install bracing in walls around the tub, shower, shower seat and toilet. This will allow you to have the wall support to install grab bars when you are ready.
A good investment when remodeling for aging in place is a comfort height toilet. In addition, new “smart” toilet technology offers many features such as self-cleaning, heated seats and many other automated features.
Different height cabinets or floating cabinets with space underneath will allow access for wheelchairs or walkers are ideal. D shaped drawer pulls are easier to grasp and pull down or roll out shelves make it easy to reach items located in the back.
Lever handle faucets help all people of almost all abilities to easily turn faucets on or off (much more so than twist or lift faucets). Lever handle faucets are also the most user-friendly for those with arthritis or hand-mobility issues.
Ask your remodeler about slip-resistant/anti-skid tile or vinyl which are all safe flooring choices. You can also increase the safety factor by using smaller tiles embedded in grout to provide more friction.
Lighting is very important for when remodeling for aging in place. Illuminated wall switches and lighted cover plates will make it much easier for someone with vision loss to find the switch. Motion sensor lighting or under cabinet lighting makes the bath even safer. Recessed lighting is a must for showers to help avoid falls.
Aging in place design, doesn’t mean institutional-looking fixtures and accessories commonly associated with seniors at living facilities. Today’s plumbing manufacturers offer many high-end fixtures and finish options to fit your home’s decor.
Today’s marketplace offers so many functional and aesthetically pleasing choices when it comes to aging-in-place products. With careful home remodeling homeowners can remain independent, comfortable and safe in their homes for years. When looking for a professional remodeler, choose one who has experience with your type of project. Seek out those trained in Universal Design such as an Aging -in-Place Specialist and someone who understands your needs today but also for your future.