Housing trends of the past have been dominated by the needs of the Baby Boomers. Boomers will continue to influence housing trends by moving into smaller homes. Equally important, they are looking for homes they have been designed to allow for aging-in-place. Aging-in-place spaces are ADA complaint, meaning they are designed to accommodate the physical demands of seniors as well as disabled people of all ages. Boomers also want these spaces to be beautiful, efficient and relaxing.
This means the conventional bathroom layout details will not accommodate all the needs of those aging-in-place. Bathrooms in existing homes will need to be remodeled to meet these changes. Sometimes that will mean opening walls to accommodate the newly configured bathroom. More floor space needs to be added to allow those in wheelchairs to maneuver and turn around. Particular attention needs to be put in choosing floor surfaces to ensure that they are non-slip on the floor, shower and bathtub.
Bathing has been a challenge with aging and anyone with physical limitations since bathtubs are difficult to get in and out of. Showers lack any means of physical support. More companies are now offering a variety of bathing solutions. Showers need to be redesigned and include bracing inside the walls that will accommodate the addition of grab bars. Paramount is that entries into showers need to be threshold free to allow for roll in access.
Seating must be added in showers since most existing shower ledges will not accomplish this. One picture shows an ADA compliant shower seat by Hafele that includes wall-grip areas eliminating the need for separate grab bars. For those preferring to use a bathtub, several companies offer walk-in bathtubs that are accessed through a front swinging door. Once inside the tub can be quickly filled with water. This is a good solution for someone that cannot maneuver up and down into a bathtub.
Typical bathroom cabinetry will not be functional for someone in a wheelchair or with other disabilities. For the cabinets to be wheel chair accessible they need to be shallow with open shelving instead of deep enclosed cabinets. The height of cabinets and vanities tops need to be lowered to be handicapped accessible. Select lever and C-shaped touch faucets instead of knobs for all cabinetry and storage drawers because they will allow easy opening.
Electrical switches should be relocated to a lowered height that is accessible to someone in a wheelchair as well as someone that is not.
While there are other considerations and needs to be addressed, these are the key areas to start with in any redesign of a bathroom for aging-in-place. Many stylish options are available today so that beauty is not sacrificed.
Teal Michel ASID, is a licensed full-service interior design firm specializing in residential interior design and renovation-remodeling design throughout the Carolinas. Teal has won awards from ASID for interior spaces and furniture design and from the Home Builder’s Association of Charlotte Excellence in Remodeling for remodel design and interior renovation. She has participated in HGTV’s “Designer’s Challenge” and her work has been featured in several books. www.tealmichelasid.com.