‘Aging in place’ has become increasingly popular among baby boomers and older aging generations who want to ensure that they can spend their senior years in their home. For many homeowners making renovations to their existing space, the way to achieve a secure future in the home is by making them more accessible while also reducing the risks of falls and other injuries is a solution to this.
Aged Care Renovations Increase Accessibility
Whether you’re building a new home, adding a new bathroom or renovating an existing bathroom, there are several features that bear consideration in order to effectively execute accessible bathroom renovations. Depending on your skill level, a few features are well within the abilities of an experienced do-it-yourselfer. Others require a professional bathroom renovation contractor to complete. Below are the top renovations you should consider completing to ensure an accessible bathroom design that will assist your mobility needs as as you get older.
Removing evident clutter:
This simple, no-cost change can eliminate many tripping hazards in addition to freeing up space. In a cramped bathroom, getting rid of large wastebaskets, side tables, hampers and throw rugs is an easy way to make an existing bathroom more “user-friendly”.
Use non-slip bath tub and shower floors:
It’s no surprise that the bathtub and shower are common places where falls in the bathroom take place. A wet, soap-slicked floor doesn’t provide secure footing. Although they’re easy to remove, bath tub mats generally aren’t the best option for preventing slips as they themselves can be a tripping hazard. Instead, we recommend adding non-slip stickers or appliques to your tub or shower floor to decrease the chance of slipping incidents.
Install easy-to-use drawer hardware:
Those with arthritis know of the effects it can have on your wrists and finger joints and how it can impede on your ability to grip, twist and pull. People with neuromuscular diseases can also find standard knobs and handles difficult to use. Upgrading your door knobs and handles with levers or “D-shaped” pulls, which are far easier to grasp, is one simple solution that can make day-to-day use of the bathroom a lot more pain-free. Another alternative is open shelving which makes everything visible and easy to access.
Use shower seats or stools and shower transfer benches:
Shower seats come in a range of styles. Standalone models can be purchased through any good aid and disability shop. Once placed inside your tub or shower, additional rubber non-slip feet help keep them stable. More complex models, such as seats that fold down when needed, fold back up against the wall to stay out of the way and seats which are integrated into the shower itself are also available. Integrated units can be a good choice if you’re already redoing your tub or shower area. For DIYers on a budget, teak-style benches, stools and streamlined transfer benches can provide great function and design at a low price.
Install a removable shower head:
A removable shower head is a nice feature for anyone, but it’s a real must if you need to shower while seated. Swapping out a shower head isn’t difficult. With a little know-how and some teflon tape, you should be good to go. If you have old pipes or pipes that are hard to access, you’re better off sticking with a plumber. Combine this job with the tapware upgrade below to save on costs.
Install grab bars for showers, toilets and sinks:
Many people consider grab bars as shameful and obvious ‘signs’ of disability. As a result, a lot of men and women are reluctant to install them. Not only can they do a great job at preventing falls, but modern designs can actually make them attractive additions to the bathroom. Some grab bars do ‘double-duty’ as toilet roll holders, towel bars or shelving units. Grab bars can be installed by a moderately handy DIYer. Be sure to anchor them to studs as they’ll need to be able to support a lot of weight. If you’re not sure where your wall studs are located, or you’re not able to attach the units to the studs, you’re better off hiring a professional.
Install toilet conversions or add-ons:
This is where the shift from DIY to professional contractor really begins. For toilets, ideally you want to increase the height while also adding one or two grab bars for stability. You can go the DIY route and add a seat that slips over your toilet and comes complete with attached grab bars. Or you can replace the entire toilet with one that is higher and add grab bars to the wall on the wide of the toilet. The choice is yours. Obviously, the DIY solution is less costly, but a lot of people don’t like the way the end result makes the bathroom look or ‘feel’. The good news is that adding a new toilet doesn’t have to be expensive. If your underlying drain is in good shape, it’s a relatively simple job for any plumber. In recent years, the cost of chair-height toilets has decreased dramatically. Excellent models can be found starting at about $200. Really experienced DIYers might still decide to tackle this job, but most will decide to let the pros handle it.
Use lever-style tapware or ‘mixer taps’:
Swapping out a more traditional-style tapware for one with handles isn’t exactly rocket science, but it’s not the easiest project either. If you have older or hard-to-reach plumbing, you can wind up creating more problems than what you started with. Hiring a plumber is a good option; it’s a relatively simple job, and lever-style tapware don’t have to be costly to look and work great.
Improve Lighting fixtures:
Poor lighting is a major cause of falls among the elderly and those with mobility issues. It’s not just lack of lighting that can result in poor footing; the reflective surfaces of many bathroom materials can result in glare, and poorly-placed lighting can also contribute to vision-related falls. To improve visibility, choose fixtures that enclose the bulb rather than leaving openings at the top, sides or bottom. Opt for vision-friendly bulbs in warmer tones rather than bright white or blue tones. Finally, consider using wall-mounted sconces rather than harsh overhead lights.
Choose non-slip flooring:
Bathrooms floors may not get as wet as tub floors, but they can still get slippery enough to cause falls. Today, there are plenty of attractive non-slip flooring options in both vinyl and tile. A general rule of thumb to follow is the more texture the flooring has, the less likely you are to slip.
A little feature like a threshold may seem like an insignificant detail, but just a small change in the floor height can result in a major tripping hazard. Thresholds can also make wheelchair access difficult. Upgrading a threshold is a task that requires an experienced professional, who will ensure the new threshold works seamlessly with existing flooring.
Choose wall-mounted sinks and lowered vanities:
Ideally, having two vanities – one at standard height and one at the height of someone seated – is the best option guaranteed to meet the needs of everyone. In either case, it’s better to have the sink mounted to the wall. leaving space beneath for a wheelchair or regular chair. Be sure to extend the mirror all the way down to the top of the vanity for easier visibility.
Consider “Hob-free” showers:
One of the biggest tripping hazards in a bathroom is the tub itself. Stepping into and out of a tub can be especially difficult for the elderly and those with mobility issues. Even a relatively low shower threshold can pose a serious hazard. Today’s hob free showers are completely level with the floor and use the same flooring material as the rest of the room for a seamless surface. As with doorways, a minimum opening of 92cm is necessary for providing adequate access for those who use wheelchairs or walkers. Accessible showers have a spa-like feel that makes any bathroom look more luxurious in addition to making the space more convenient to use. For even greater access and convenience, add recessed shelves to shower walls.
Opt for a tubs with doors:
Just can’t bear the thought of being without a deep, muscle-warming soak? Then you might want to consider replacing your current tub with a deep soaking tub that allows you to enter via a door. These spa tubs feature a watertight seal to prevent leakage. They’re equipped with integrated seats so you can sit and soak to your heart’s content. Many units also have whirlpool jets and heated seats for added comfort and luxury. While some accessible spa tubs are larger than traditional tubs, others can be plunked down in the same space occupied by your existing tub, making it a simpler and less costly option than removing the tub and installing a walk-in, hob-free shower.
Widen your doors:
Upgrading your bathroom to make it more accessible is a wise move, but the added convenience won’t mean much if you’re not able to access the room itself. For people who use wheelchairs or walkers, ordinary width doorways can pose a challenge. To be fully accessible, doors need about 82 cm of clearance. Anything narrower means a walker or wheelchair won’t fit. Many doorways are considerably less than 92 cm, measuring anywhere from 61 cm to 82 cm wide. When contracting someone to make this modification, ask about having the door open out instead of in. That way, if someone falls against the door, the door can still be opened. As is the case with tapware, opt for a lever handle instead of a knob.
Staying Put in Your Home
If you’re currently considering updating your existing bathroom or adding an entirely new one to make your home more accessible, you couldn’t have chosen a better time to do so. Today, many of the features that make a home more liveable are considered design upgrades thanks to finishes and options that look upscale. This means your home won’t just be safer and easier to live in, but it’ll look nicer too. Plus, many renovations aimed at improving accessibility can even increase the value of your home, which is an added assurance just in case you wish to move later in life.
The key to a successful ‘retrofit’ is to hire an accessible bathroom renovations contractor or building company that understands accessibility. Place your trust in professionals who know how to upgrade existing spaces using attractive design elements and ensure their suitability for people of all ages and abilities. With the right contractor on your side, your home can adapt to your changing needs, so you can truly remain the king or queen of your castle.