The main reason why older adults leave their homes is that it becomes impractical and uncomfortable for them. Tasks that were once a routine become risky and challenging things to do as we get older. Probably the most problematic room in the house becomes the bathroom. Slippery floors, tiles everywhere, and a dangerous shower/bathtub make the simple tasks very unsafe. And as we buy homes to make a lifetime commitment, it is challenging to leave it after such a long time and go live somewhere else. Luckily, you don’t have to do it. Adapting your bathroom to be a much safer place in just a few steps is possible. We prepared some tips on how to design safe bathrooms for the elderly. Hopefully, they will help designers understand the needs of older people and make it easier for their families to provide them a safe home.
Start with making the bathroom accessible
The first thing to do is make sure older people in the house can access the bathroom with ease. This means that the doors should be 80cm wide – at least. It will make it easier for those in a wheelchair or with a walker to enter the bathroom. Next, think about the doorknobs. They are usually difficult to grab, which is why lever handles are a better option – not only for your bathroom doors but all around the house. They provide a better grip and minimize the risk of the hand slipping away from it and making the person fall back. Generally, doors should be light and easy to open. Finally, consider getting a sliding door – sliding is a much simpler and safer solution and doesn’t take a lot of space.
Make enough space
If the person needs a wheelchair, it is essential to think about the space necessary to access different areas and function in them. There should be enough space for the person to turn around the wheelchair – at least 150 cm. Also, additional space underneath the sink is necessary so the wheelchair can come close enough and the person can use the sink without any troubles.
Bathroom floors that minimize the risks of falls and injuries
Slippery floors are the biggest threat for those who have seeing issues or trouble walking. Therefore, to design safe bathrooms for the elderly, be sure to use tiles that have textured surfaces. They are much safer than the smooth ones as they don’t make the floor that slippery. Furthermore, try to avoid rugs that wrinkle easily, creating a tripping obstacle. Use rubbery mats instead, as they will not move due to the friction between them and the floor.
Slippery bathroom tiles are a common cause of injury.
Taking a shower – the safest way
One of the significant steps in creating or renovating a bathroom should be removing the bath and building a walk-in shower. It’s a much safer option for older people as they don’t need to lift their legs and go inside a tub. Walk-in showers are great even for those who have trouble walking, so be sure to create one with zero thresholds.
Walk-in showers are the safest option – be sure to add a seat to make showers more comfortable and easier. alt.tag: an example of how to design safe bathrooms for the elderly
Don’t forget one more important detail – safety handrails or grab bars. Place them on each side of the shower space, so people can hold onto them on their way in and out and prevent slipping accidents.
When it comes to the shower floors, it is essential to add a shower mat that will make the floors less slippery. There are other solutions you can try – anti-slip formula for tiles and adhesive threads. However, mats are a widely used and inexpensive option.
Another great addition to the shower would be a built-in seat. It is much easier for the elderly to take a shower in the sitting position, so they can take their time without getting tired.
A safe toilet
Sitting down and getting up is a difficulty for many seniors. Thankfully, it’s possible to simplify this process when you design safe bathrooms for the elderly. Just place the toilet slightly higher than usual. Also, don’t forget the handrails on both sides of the toilet. And finally, secure it both to the floor and the wall for maximum safety.
Remember: grab bars need to sustain a lot of weight, so they must be strong enough for such pressure. Avoid using classic towel racks at any cost, as this can be very risky. Use bars made of steps to support the person using them, and provide the highest security.
Declutter and organize the space
To make the bathroom practical and easy to use, simple organization methods can help you out. Ensure there’s no clutter around and that all the items such as cosmetics are placed on dedicated shelves. Remove any unnecessary items that might block the way and rugs that can be a potential tripping hazard. Also, make sure you create some easily accessible storage space for all the bits a person in their bathroom needs. These shelves or cabinets should be within reach, so there’s no need to stretch a lot or climb a stool to get something.
Remember: these senior-friendly home improvements are not only practical for your bathroom but also when you need to get your entire home ready and adapted for a senior. Organized space with practical storage solutions will make the space cleaner and simplify the daily tasks of older adults living in the house.
Invest in an accident alarm
When you design safe bathrooms for the elderly, you also need to think about the possibility of something happening. Accidents can happen even with all precautionary measures. And if they do, it is important to react as soon as possible, so investing in an alarm system can be a great option. These systems allow the person inside the bathroom to press a button and contact someone outside. These buttons should be in a place where a person can reach them, especially if they fall on the floor. Even though we’re sure our tips will make the bathroom space as secure as possible, it’s always good to think about the ‘if’ scenarios.
By Mary Aspen Richardson