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Five Ideas for Designing a Beautiful, Senior-Friendly Bathroom

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Date : January 10,2014
By : Marlena Stoddard

Advancing age can present obstacles to carrying out personal grooming routines and make simple tasks more difficult. If you are building a new home or remodeling an existing one, modern materials and fixtures make it easy to create a bathroom that is not only senior-friendly but also beautiful. Here are five tips for designing a bathroom that is not only well-suited to the needs of seniors but will also adapt to your household’s changing needs.

1. Safety

Your first concern must be safety. Begin with skid-resistant flooring that is also easy to maintain. Tile is a natural choice for a senior-friendly bathroom because it is a versatile, beautiful, easily cleaned material that can be applied to all bathroom surfaces that require frequent cleaning. However, don’t feel that you are limited to an institutional look. Specialty suppliers such as Tile Mega Mart offer a wide variety of non-slip choices, along with coordinating wall tiles. Ask your plumber to install an anti-scald device to prevent accidental burns, and don’t forget the grab bars. These should always be located in the bathtub or shower as well as around the toilet.

2. Ease of Use

Small changes can make a bathroom much more comfortable and useable for a senior. For example, trading traditional flip switches for the ones with large, flat buttons or choosing a faucet with lever controls rather than one that requires a firm grip to operate can transform a senior’s personal care experience. Replace your standard showerhead with a hand-held shower adapter or attach one to the tub’s spigot.

3. Accessible Design

Give some thought to making your bathroom easily accessible for a walker or wheelchair. Replace thresholds with flush versions to eliminate steps, and install a door opening that is at least 32 inches wide. A wheelchair requires 36 inches to turn around, so lay out the fixtures accordingly. A good, simple plan includes a toilet to the right of the entry, with a sink straight ahead and a large shower to the right of the sink.

4. Accessible Fixtures

Choose a specially designed vanity or a more economical wall-hung sink that will allow a wheelchair to roll under the sink’s bowl. Consider a walk-in shower that is flush with the floor, or select a tub-sized shower with a built-in skid-resistant seat. Most seniors and wheelchair users need higher toilets, so choose a specially designed toilet or have your plumber install a special lift beneath a regular toilet to raise the seat height to 18-20 inches.

5. A View to the Future

There is no better time than during the building or remodeling phase to make provisions for future needs. For example, an adjustable mirror can be used by all family members, including those who use wheelchairs. Similarly, allocating some extra room so that your bathroom can become wheelchair friendly with little or no work is another step that is easy to take at this stage but that will be difficult or impossible at a later stage.

Regardless of your own age, creating a first-floor bathroom that can be used safely by older guests and family members is always a good idea. With a few additional tweaks, you can even create a beautiful bathroom that will easily accommodate a handicapped or wheelchair-bound user, should the need ever arise.