Bath Design: Aging Gracefully

Bath Design: Aging Gracefully

There are features that can help you stay comfortable while enhancing your bathroom's beauty and elegance.

With a goal to remain in their own homes as long as possible, savvy seniors and smart baby boomers are remodeling their baths to support “aging in place” well into their advanced years. It’s part of a concept called universal design, which advocates creating living spaces that accommodate people regardless of their age or physical abilities.

The last thing health-conscious active adults want are bathrooms that suggest old age or that look remotely institutional. Fortunately, there are features that can help you stay comfortable while enhancing your bathroom's beauty and elegance. Here are some ideas:

  • Adaptable products

    Keep in mind that your bath products must be able to adapt to your changing needs, yet must also be suitable for people of all ages. That’s where the “universal” in universal design comes in.

    A spacious, curbless shower with a handshower can be a necessity for an older adult using a mobility device or needing assistance. Handshowers with slidebars are even more versatile, as they can be mounted low enough to accommodate both seated and standing users.

    Consider adjustable or customizable cabinets — a vanity cabinet with a removable base or pocket doors can easily allow for a wheelchair. Cabinets and counters wall-mounted on shelf brackets can be adjusted for height or removed to add space for mobility.

    Another option is a wall-mounted sink. This style works great for aging seniors, since the space can accommodate a wheelchair or other mobility device.


    “Active older adults are deciding to stay in their homes for the long term.”

  • Invisible integration

    It’s easy to anticipate your future needs with some simple choices. Consider accentuating the open space under and around the vanity area with elegant glass countertops, floating drawers and under-sink lighting. Installing side-by-side sinks at two heights can accommodate people of different statures or seated users.

    Integrate hidden structural changes during renovation to give you the option of adding features later, when you need them. For instance, plywood reinforcements in bathroom walls give you the option of installing grab bars anywhere in the room at any time.

  • Universal appeal

    Products designed to be easy to use for everyone can offer specific benefits to seniors, particularly those who have problems with their joints or balance. Seniors often opt for toilets with a chair-height, which is comfortable for most average-height adults, while helping seniors avoid excessive bending.

    Faucets are another important consideration. Older adults — or anyone with arthritis or reduced hand dexterity — might find a smooth, round faucet knob difficult to use, Peterson says. Kohler has a large selection of faucets, including ones with a low gooseneck spout and low-lever handles, that are easy to maneuver. What's more, they're beautiful — an essential requirement for aging baby boomers.

  • More accessibility tips

    To help with the diminished depth perception and general eyesight weakening that often comes with age, consider using contrasting colors for countertops, showers and toilet zones. This will help provide a visual cue to guide users to key areas of the bathroom.

    Non-slip surfaces for floors are also a must. Designers agree that matte-finish tile and honed stone are better choices for bathroom floors than polished surfaces, thanks to their traction, easy maintenance and good looks.

    Designing bathrooms with an eye toward the future is a trend that looks likely to grow, as homeowners plan for the needs of their elderly parents and younger people consider remodeling to increase their home's resale value.

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