Live-In-Place Bathroom Design
As we age, many of us think about where we’ll call home once we retire. Some consider homes in warmer climates. While others prefer to stay in their own homes near family and friends.
If you want to spend your retirement in the home you raised your family in, you’ll need to make some modifications. Remodeling will enable you to live comfortably as well as improve the aesthetic appeal and add luxury features.
The residential home remodeling market is a $300+ billion industry. According to the National Home Builders’ contractors, 70% of homeowners started projects for aging in place.
Those future needs may include limiting the living space to one floor. A National Home Builders’ Association study notes that 80% of baby boomers, 74% of seniors, and 53% of Gen Xers prefer one-story living.
To be clear, we may speak of seniors here, but today what was considered an elderly person 20 years ago are those redefining what it means to age. Some are healthy, remain active, and suffer from little more than arthritis and limited mobility issues.
Homeowners of two-story or larger homes may want to make home modifications that move the main living areas to the home’s first floor.
“If there is not a bathroom on the main floor of the home, you may wish to consider a renovation to add a bathroom or install a chair lift or elevator for easy access to other levels,” explains AgeInPlace.com.
Kitchens and baths are usually the first areas people start making renovations. At more than $150 billion, the residential kitchen and bath market represents one-quarter of the entire U.S. residential construction market. And 63% of it is focused on renovations and replacement projects.
Aging in place bathroom design doesn’t mean institutional-looking fixtures and accessories commonly associated with seniors at living facilities. Today’s plumbing manufacturers offer many high-end fixtures and finish options to make universal design bathroom modifications fit the decor of a home.
An accessible bathroom is designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities. Installing grab bars, comfort-height toilets and accessible showers are the top three aging-in-place remodeling projects, notes NAHB. But having an ADA-compliant bathroom doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish at the same time.
Manufacturers such as Moen offer decorative grab bars that are far from the institutional bars of yesterday. Yet they are still robust enough to support 250 to 300 lb.
Almost 90% of NAHB contractors install grab bars in bathroom renovations, especially when aging in place bathroom design is concerned. Also available are enhanced towel bars and toilet paper holders that are stronger than traditional bath accessories. And they can also double as grab bars — making the bathroom safer.
“If you are thinking about remodeling your bathroom, you might want to go ahead and install bracing in walls around the tub, shower, shower seat and toilet, even if you do not plan on installing grab bars now,” says AgeInPlace.com. “This will get the walls prepared to support the grab bars when you are ready and keep you from additional modifications later.”
Shower and Bath Remodeling
Swapping out a bathtub for a walk-in shower with no shower door, and rubber flooring to replace a non-stick bath mat are popular changes for living in place bathroom remodels. More than 80% of bathroom contractors install curbless showers in aging-in-place renovation projects.
These are showers with no thresholds for easy entry. So they’re a good idea for easier access at any age. And they can be upscale to include decoratively etched glass shower walls. Curbless showers can also add open space with no curtains to make the bathroom look bigger.
Even shower drains are available in decorative designs to complete the aesthetic of the room. Some models blend in so well they seem invisible.
Adding a hand shower, or adjustable shower head, to the walk-in shower makes it easier for older people if they need to sit down. This can also accommodate children or shorter adults (see Hansgrohe).
“An adjustable shower head (which moves to suit the height and position most comfortable for a user) is a great way to add accessibility to a bathroom,” AgeInPlace.com says. “Combining it with a hand-held shower head creates an even more functional experience.”
Want to indulge in a spa-type shower at home? Manufacturers such as Kohler have many amenities to enhance the shower experience. A few examples include body sprays, overhead rain shower heads, chromatherapy, aromatherapy, and steam showers. Even better, they can all be digitally controlled with user profiles for the home’s occupants.
Technology is also seen in today’s high-end toilets. Warming seats, night lights, bidet wash-lets, and air fresheners are just a few available amenities. Many of these innovations can be connected to high-end companies, such as Toto and Kohler.
Higher toilets are easier for seniors and even aging baby-boomers to rise from them. 85% of bathroom contractors install this type of toilet in aging-in-place renovations. Many also come with enhanced glazes and finishes to help with cleaning the interior of the bowl. (See American Standard’s offerings.)
For bathroom sinks, replace conventional two-handled faucets with ones that have lever-type handles. They allow people of almost all abilities to more easily turn the taps on and off, including seniors and children. You can find them in many styles and finishes, from traditional to transitional to modern. Pair a lever-handle faucet with a stone or painted sink to make a design statement.
Additional Changes to Consider for Aging in Place Bathroom Design
- Adequate space is always an issue in the bathroom. But it’s even more critical as we age. The doorway width, threshold and floor plan should accommodate the use of wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. If it’s not possible to enlarge the bathroom, install wall-hung fixtures to make it easier to maneuver around the room.
- Enhanced lighting make it easier for people to navigate at night. This can include overhead lights, and the best place for motion-sensed lighting is in hallways and the bathroom. If possible, natural light from a bathroom window can enhance daytime use.
- Bathroom doors should open out, not in. And use lever handles. Or install pocket doors to increase the space inside the bathroom and widen doorways. Make sure you can unlock the door from the outside. Place handles at a height, so they are wheelchair accessible.
- Have the water pressure controlled in the shower and the sink. And install anti-scald controls to prevent burns. This is especially crucial for children and seniors.
- Install adjustable or varying height countertops. Include provisions for roll-under access in front of the sink and main countertop for easy access. Give similar consideration to cabinets and closets.
- Install a contrasting edge color on countertops. This helps those with diminishing eyesight or balance issues.
- Ensure that the bathroom floor is free of slippery walking surfaces. This is particularly important directly inside and outside of the shower or bathtub area. For the flooring and shower stall, consider anti-skid tile or rubber flooring. If a bathtub remains, have an anti-skid coating put on the bottom of the tub. Or at minimum, use a rubber bath mat.
Finding the Right Contractor for Aging in Place Bathroom Design
Homeowners looking to design principles such as universal design can hire a Certified Aging in Place Specialist.
A CAPS design-build contractor, rather than architects, has focused training to meet the unique needs of the older adult population. They can both assess the requirements for successful aging-in-place home modifications, and do the design plan that includes appropriate fixtures and accessible layouts of space.
So, when choosing a bathroom contractor for your aging-in-place modifications, you want someone who not only understands your needs today but also your future needs.
Yes, you want new sinks and a walk-in shower to replace an existing tub. A CAPS-trained contractor is a specialist that will install the walk-in shower you want. And they’ll also ensure that all the faucets have anti-scald protection and hassle-free faucet knobs. They’ll make suggestions to modify the floor plan to make it easier to navigate. And they’ll listen to what you want for your home and make it happen.
Contractors with NAHB’s CAPS certification “create new homes and renovations that provide design flexibility, pleasing aesthetics, high function and usability for all people.” They are well-versed in the products and technologies that allow you to stay in your home comfortably and safely — without sacrificing the style and luxury you’re accustomed to.
Learn more about an aging-in-place bathroom remodel. Reach out to an Aging-in-Place Specialist with Live in Place Designs.