Tips for All-Access Bathrooms

handicap shower

Convenient Shower

Too many bathrooms are cramped, awkward and inconvenient. The typical bathroom offers a less-than-optimal design for almost everyone, young and old alike.

By: Patricia Moore

Planning for retirement opens up a world of opportunities to get more out of your home. Whether embracing a new gardening hobby or creating a quiet refuge to enjoy the morning paper, your home should be your oasis. Applying a few simple design ideas now can help to ensure that your home remains perfect for you and your loved ones as you age, and frequently, these changes will enhance the overall style or functionality of your home now. Keep these ideas in mind as you take on both small and large home improvement projects.

Crank Up the Color Contrast
One of the quickest ways to update your home’s look is with a coat of paint. Look for opportunities to use contrasting colors to create a vivid look for your home and to assist people who have difficulty identifying different surfaces in a room. For example, you can paint stair risers a lighter shade if the treads are brown, or use dark carpeting in a room with light furniture.

* Today’s Benefit: You get a vivid interior design that highlights your furniture, fixtures and other accessories instead of them blending together in a dull monochrome.

* Tomorrow’s Bonus: Your rooms will be livable for years to come and for older relatives, minimizing the risk of trips, falls or other household injuries.

Create Accessible Bathrooms
Too many bathrooms are cramped, awkward and inconvenient. The typical bathroom offers a less-than-optimal design for almost everyone. Vanities may be too low or too high, tubs and showers may be difficult to enter and exit, and doors and dual-handle faucets require two hands to adjust.

Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to improve on some of these design flaws without having to consider a complete bathroom remodel. Here’s an approach that can make any bathroom a more comfortable experience for all:

Pick the Perfect Toilet
While standard toilets are 14 inches from the floor, some manufacturers make “comfort height” or “chair height” models that are 17 to 19 inches tall.

* Today’s Benefit: All adults will appreciate the added height, which creates a more natural seated stance. Children can easily reach the toilet with a step-stool.

* Tomorrow’s Bonus: Aging knees will thank you for the extra height, making it easier to sit down and rise up unassisted from the toilet.

Shower Safety
A walk-in shower is a sleek, stylish solution for your bathroom. It is easy to get in and out, and the uncluttered look will add a Zen-like feel to your bathroom. Make sure the shower door is at least 32 inches wide, and keep the shower and bathroom floor heights on the same level. A zero-clearance glass door, which will extend fully to the floor without a threshold to step over, will prevent a slip-and-fall hazard and help keep water inside the shower. A built-in bench will allow added convenience for storing shower items and shaving while preparing your shower for your aging body.

* Today’s Benefit: What could be more soothing than a shower with multiple shower heads? Also, it’s easy to convince the family dog (or toddler, for that matter) to walk into a shower without having to leap over a ledge or hop into the bathtub.

* Tomorrow’s Bonus: Enjoy the ease of walking straight into your shower without the risk of slipping and falling. Sit down on your built-in bench and relax, or have easy access for a caregiver to help with bathing.

Grab Bars Can Be Glamorous
Modern manufacturers offer elegant alternatives to the institutional look of old-school grab bars. These accessories add functionality to your home, decreasing slip-and-fall risks for young and old alike.

* Today’s Benefit: Instead of supporting yourself on a slippery shower door while shaving or washing your feet, grab onto a bar that is sure to support your weight and allow you to balance.
* Tomorrow’s Bonus: Installing grab bars now will allow you to get used to using them in future, and incorporating them into the design from the beginning will make sure they are exactly where you want.

About the Author:
Moore is an internationally renowned gerontologist and designer, serving as a leading authority on consumer lifespan behaviors and requirements. For a period of three years (1979-1982), in an exceptional and daring experiment, Moore traveled throughout the United States and Canada disguised as women more than eighty years of age. With her body altered to simulate the normal sensory changes associated with aging, she was able to respond to people, products, and environments as an elder.

Follow this series of articles on Not Just the Kitchen for more tips on making your home All-Access.

Photo: kamibraithwait