Whether you plan to age in place or need a safer space, these features can make any bathroom more accessible. Injuries that occur in the bathroom are more frequent in older populations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whether you’re getting older yourself, want to plan ahead or are moving a parent into your home, there are several bathroom remodeling steps you can take to make the space more accommodating to seniors. Some are simple fixes you can do yourself, while others will likely require the services of a handyman or contractor. All of them depend on the level of mobility of the person using the bathroom.
Bathroom safety improvements you can do yourself
Install grab bars. Installing grab bars in the shower and around the toilet can help older people stay steady on their feet. Wall bars should be installed parallel to the ground.
Improve lighting. As vision tends to decrease with age, it’s important to make sure the bathroom is well lit. This might be as simple as replacing bulbs or swapping out existing light fixtures.
Change door handles and knobs. Older hands may have a hard time grasping small components, so make sure the bathroom door handle and the knobs on any of the cabinets and sinks are large and easy to use. You may also want to replace the faucets in the shower if they stick or are difficult to turn. When replacing light fixtures, make sure they work with a wall switch and don’t have small knobs that need to be twisted.
Install a nonslip mat in the shower. Slippery surfaces are dangerous enough for the young, but they can be downright deadly for the elderly. Make sure your tub or shower has a nonslip mat on the floor.
Purchase a transfer chair. The side of a tub will get harder to climb over as legs get weaker with age. One solution is to cut a gap in the side of the tub. Another option is to buy a transfer chair. It allows a person to sit outside the tub and then scoot over and into the shower area.
Bathroom improvements that require a contractor
Widen the doorway and remove thresholds. If they’re not already wide enough, doors should be widened to 32 to 36 inches. This facilitates wheelchair, scooter and walker access. Another option is to remove the threshold and replace it with a walk-in shower.
Raise or replace the sink. If the person using the bathroom will be in a wheelchair, the sink should be raised to a height of 30 to 34 inches and the bottom of the sink should be open and wide enough to allow the chair to fit. Otherwise, a sink could be raised to a height of 40 inches to help someone who has trouble bending over.
Install nonslip flooring. Slick surfaces and the elderly do not mix, so if you have glossy tile or marble on your bathroom floor, you might want to replace it with nonslip tile.
Install a special-height toilet. Elevating a toilet five to seven inches allows older adults to stand up more easily. A plumber can replace the existing toilet with one that has a taller profile, or the toilet seat can be replaced with an adjustable version that provides anywhere from three to six inches of extra height. You can also add inches to the toilet height by simply using a molded plastic seat.
Remove or replace rugs. Some people accessorize their bathrooms with rugs to have something soft to stand on while entering or exiting the shower. However, the soft backing on these makes them susceptible to slipping. The best thing to do is to remove the rug completely or replace it with a rubber mat that will not slip or move.
Install a thermostatic shower valve. Faucets with a thermostatic valve can’t get too hot, which reduces the possibility of burns.