Guest Blogger: Designing a Safe Bathroom for Seniors
Life as a senior citizen is more complicated than many young people realize. Simple day-to-day tasks become much more difficult with age, especially for those who use walkers or wheelchairs to get around in their old age. This effect is most strongly pronounced in the bathroom, which becomes something like an obstacle course for those who don’t have the same physical capabilities they possessed in their younger years. When designing a safe bathroom for seniors, be sure to keep this in mind. What is convenient for you may be a difficult mess for the elderly.
Image via: David Wilkes Builders
Walk-in showers and bathtubs
Walk-in showers and baths are some of the best utilities available for senior bathrooms. Stepping in and out of the bath can be dangerous even for those in their prime years. Losing your balance is very easy, and the slippery surfaces make it even easier to fall over and hurt oneself. This can turn into a serious problem for seniors, who are more prone to injury from falls like this. It would also be prudent to install handrails in and around the bath, to give bathers both a way to balance themselves and a place to hang towels for easy access.
Pay close attention to the bathroom floors as well. Many bathroom floors are made of ceramic tile, which becomes very slippery when wet and can quickly become a safety hazard for seniors. Replacing the existing bathroom floors is one option, but this may be impossible or undesirable depending on your budget and how much you like the look of your current floor. If this is the case, non-slip coatings can be added to the bathroom floor to prevent falls and keep the bathroom safe. Additional handrails and grab bars around the bathroom would be a good additional safety measure. Also, be sure to stay away from fluffy shag bath mats–they can get tangled up in wheelchairs and walkers, causing a whole mess of problems.
Image: Harrell Remodeling
Elevated toilets are often a good idea for senior bathrooms. Remember that with age comes additional difficulty in sitting down and standing up for many. An elevated toilet can make the bathroom a much easier place for seniors. This effect can be accomplished either by installing the toilet on an elevated base, by using a seat-top fixture, or by installing a wall-mounted toilet. Around the toilet is another great place to install bathroom grab bars. Remember not to take your own physical fitness for granted–these tasks that come so easily to you are not as simple for many seniors.
Get in touch with a contractor who is experienced in reworking bathrooms for senior access. You may need to widen the entrance to the bathroom in order to accommodate wheelchair entry, or overhaul any number of other things. Keep these guidelines in mind and remember that a bathroom can never be too convenient. It is better to over-prepare than it is to under-prepare, so consider every possible complication and build with prevention in mind.