There are many things to consider when updating your bathroom for aging in place. Whether it’s for you to be able to stay in your home in future years or for parents or elderly relatives who need help with mobility issues, there are some areas you don’t want to overlook when revamping your bathroom. At Janssen Glass, we’re familiar with bathrooms and remodels. Our crew creates custom shower enclosures for our glass shower door customers all the time. They know the ins and outs of bathroom design and just what to look for when it comes to aging in place.
Six Areas to Focus On in an Aging-in-Place Bathroom Update
If you break it into areas to consider, it makes the process a bit easier and makes you less likely to forget anything critical. We will discuss each area separately and make sure you don’t miss anything important. We suggest breaking it into these six categories:
- Layout/Floor Plan
The very first thing to consider is the layout of the bathroom. Space is crucial if a wheelchair becomes the main mode of transportation. This means that there must be ample room for the rider to maneuver the chair to access the toilet, the sink, and the shower. You may consider replacing the tub with a roll-n shower and widening doorways as well. Once you know the layout, you can move forward with any floor plan remodeling changes first.
The tub/shower configuration is the next biggest challenge. A walk-in tub is a great option, but these can be very expensive. If it is within your budget, it’s a great alternative to a regular tub that is difficult to get in and out of safely. If a walk-in tub is not the answer, then we suggest a zero-entry (curbless) roll-in shower enclosure. This design eliminates tripping hazards and creates a smooth surface for easy wheelchair access. If glass shower doors are desired, we usually install swinging doors which only require hardware to mount them on the side walls rather than sliding doors which require a track that a wheelchair could not roll over easily.
The shower should include a built-in bench if possible, as movable benches aren’t as sturdy, stable, or safe. Also, make sure the showerhead is accessible to someone sitting in a chair or on the built-in bench. A showerhead on a hose with dual mounts or dual shower heads are often installed. Built-in niches located lower in the walls make great places to store shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. within easy reach. Finally, grab bars should be installed for safety. We recommend one on either side of the entrance and at least one on the wall near the bench.
The toilet should have plenty of space around it for easy access from a walker or wheelchair. A comfort-height toilet (19-inches high instead of the standard 15-inches) will require less bending and leg strength when sitting and standing. Another consideration is adding a bidet. They are becoming increasingly popular and may improve personal hygiene as well.
When designing the vanity, keep in mind that the sink and storage areas need to be accessible to anyone in a wheelchair. This means lowering the height of the vanity and leaving space underneath for the wheelchair to roll up to it. Wall mounting is ideal, but if you prefer a cabinet-style vanity for more storage area, make sure to include a deep kick space for a wheelchair. When choosing hardware, lever-style faucets are easier to operate with weak or arthritic hands than twisting hot and cold handles. Remember that electrical outlets and light switches should be mounted lower as well for easy access.
Flooring is very important when it comes to aging-in-place design. Because bathrooms are already dangerous areas due to steam, water, and bare feet making slipping more likely, extra thought should go into the flooring choices. Most tile manufacturers offer a slip rating. This is measured by “coefficient of friction” or COF which is a value given to the tile. Tile with a COF of more than 0.6 is safe for bathrooms.
A typical bathroom door is 32 inches wide. To accommodate a walker or wheelchair, increase the width to 36 inches. Bathroom doors should also open outward so that access isn’t blocked if anyone falls inside the bathroom.
One thing you may not think about is the lighting. Because many trips to the bathroom occur in the middle of the night (especially as we age), consider installing motion sensor lights that come on automatically when someone enters the room. They will save energy as well as ensure good lighting without having to fumble for a light switch in the dark. You can also buy a lighting kit for the toilet that provides a soft glow under the seat making it easier to locate during nighttime visits.
Safety and easy access are paramount in designing a bathroom for those who wish to remain in their home for as long as possible. If you need help designing a shower for your aging-in-place bathroom remodel, give Janssen Glass a call.