Today, with the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, more people than ever are considering where to live as they age. Recent studies have shown that, when given an option, more seniors will opt to stay in their own homes. With arthritis, wheelchairs, and other considerations, it’s often difficult to remain in the same home as you age – but today, with the right renovations, it can certainly be doable.
The National Association of Home Builders has recently found that the senior population is one of the fastest growing segments in the residential remodeling industry. Rather than moving to assisted living or moving in with family, people are aging in place and doing so beautifully. While there are many areas of the home that can use renovations for aging in place, one of the key locations is the bathroom. These specific bathroom renovations should help to pave the way for people to remain in their homes longer than they ever thought possible.
1. Grab Bars – Certainly, the first item to install for aging in place is a bathroom grab bar. This allows elderly people to have extra support as they enter and exit the shower or tub. It also creates a place where a person can gain support if they feel like they are falling in the shower.
2. Shower Seat – If you have the financial resources, installing a shower seat is an excellent option to accommodate the elderly. Other similar ideas include converting the bathtub into a walk-in shower and installing an extra step or small ramp on the side of the bathtub for easier entry.
3. Cabinet Hardware – Cabinet Hardware is an item that many people would not consider changing on their own. Cabinet knobs are much harder to grasp than are cabinet pulls. This is especially true for someone with arthritis or other difficulties. Cabinet pulls, on the other hand, offer a larger area for grasping and don’t require your hand to curve around the hardware and to make a ball. Lever handles and bathroom pulls are much easier on the hand, while still offering a decorative and lovely look. Obviously, this change can be implemented in the kitchen cabinets and drawers, on the bedroom armoire, and anywhere else where you would find cabinet hardware.
4. Pull-Out Shelves – In order to ensure easy access to bathroom supplies, install pull-out shelves on each bathroom cabinet. This will allow for easier access to items in the back of the cabinets and will make it smoother and easier to access everything. Pull-out shelves are also a great addition to kitchen cabinets for aging in place.
5. Electrical Switch Placement – If you believe that you’ll need to be in a wheelchair at some point in the future, then it’s a great idea to lower the electrical switches in the bathroom and throughout the house. This will allow you to remain independent for turning on and off lights, using hair dryers, and more.
6. Bathroom Vanity – Similarly, another bathroom renovation that is very popular with the aging community is to purchase a bathroom vanity with space underneath for a wheelchair. This will allow you to wheel the wheelchair all the way into the bathroom and to store it nearby while bathing.
7. Bathroom Lighting – One final bathroom renovation recommendation is to enhance the bathroom lighting. As we age, we need more light to complete the same tasks that we used to do with less. Too much white light, however, can cause a glare and make it difficult to see. It’s best, therefore, to renovate with fluorescent colors and to use directed lighting. Add a light above the vanity mirror, or place scones on either side of the mirror. Add a light to the shower and one over the toilet as well.
With these key bathroom renovations, the elderly can feel more comfortable remaining in their current homes, and can eliminate many of the common bathroom accidents. In addition to these many suggestions, there are other changes that can facilitate a safer bathing experience. These include installing non-slip flooring, using non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower and on the outside of these locations, and creating rounded corners in the bathroom construction. Aging in place empowers seniors to feel more independent and hopeful. And, if it takes a few bathroom renovations to achieve this goal – it’s certainly worth the time and money to do so!