Baby Boomer Bathroom Upgrades

The bathroom is an oasis for many of us, a place where we not only take care of personal needs, but also relax and decompress after a hectic day. But as people grow older and less mobile, the bathroom can become a risky place.

Falls are a leading cause of hospitalization among aging Americans, and most at-home falls occur in the bathroom. By upgrading their bath with some products designed to facilitate aging in place, baby boomers and mature homeowners can continue to enjoy their bathrooms, with less concern over possible safety risks.

“Good design – in the form of products which specifically address age-related concerns – can support independence as well as increase safety,” says Diana Schrage, an interior designer at the Kohler Design Center. “Making a few simple improvements in key areas like the bathroom can be a cost-effective way for anyone to ensure their home continues to work for their changing needs.”

Here are a few must-have items to make a bathroom more senior friendly:

* Grab bars – As we age, our ability to lift ourselves from or lower ourselves into a seated position can diminish. Grab bars or safety bars positioned near the toilet, and in the bath and shower area, can help people with mobility issues navigate more safely in the bathroom. You can find a wide selection of safety bars specifically made for use in the bath. Choose bars that are easy to grip, won’t become slick when wet, and can be positioned horizontally or vertically. Avoid diagonally positioned bars as your hand could slip off them when wet.

* A seated shower – Some people may feel fatigued from standing, or uncertain of their footing, in the shower. While a shower seat may help, it can also create a slip hazard if the seat moves unexpectedly while in use. A seated shower, like the Accord Seated Shower by Sterling may be a better option. The seat is integrated into the shower for convenience, beauty and stability, but is also removable and movable, so it can suit everyone in the household. Grab bars, designed to fit the overall aesthetic of the shower, offer another layer of safety. And because the unit is easy to install, it can cut down on remodeling costs.

* Slip resistance – Some of the most popular bathroom floor materials, like ceramic and vinyl, can become very slick when wet, creating a risk of slipping and falling. In addition, acrylic bathtub surfaces can be slippery. It’s important for tubs, showers and bathroom floors to be equipped with slip resistant materials. For tubs and showers, this could be as simple as a rubber mat with suction cups that keep it in place. You can also find slip-resistant mats and area rugs for the floor itself.

* Hand-held showerhead – Hand-held showers make it easier to use the shower from a seated position and minimize the need to reach over one’s head – a position that tires arms and potentially leaves one off balance. Such shower heads have become very popular, are available in a variety of styles and are easy to install in most bath settings.

* Levers – People with arthritis or other hand problems that make grasping a challenge often are better able to use levers, rather than traditional doorknobs or twist faucets. Replacing doorknobs with simple lever-style handles can give seniors easier access to the bath. And a lever-style faucet control can make it easier to adjust water temperature than controls with one or more knobs.

* Lighting – As we age, our eyes need more light to see by. Be sure to provide ample light in the bathroom, especially at night. A nightlight not only helps seniors see where they’re going, it can help ease the confusion that an abrupt transition from darkness to bright light may cause.

“From seated showers to slip-resistant flooring, homeowners can find plenty of bathroom products designed to help keep them safe and comfortable in their homes well into their golden years,” says Schrage.

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