With 18% of the UK population now aged 65 or over, ensuring that our homes are suitable for old age has become increasingly important. A critical concern for many elderly people is to continue to live comfortably and safely in their own home for as long as possible. But did you know that 20% of adults today find difficulty in everyday tasks such as personal care and this often goes unchecked and unremedied?
We need to make sure that our bathrooms are adapted for the changing needs of our families and that bathroom aids for the elderly, including bath seats for the elderly and walk in showers for the elderly, are a priority within this so that the older generation can see out their golden years in comfort and style.
Room H2O suggests a few practical ways below in which you can make your bathroom a safer and easier place to manage as you, or a family member, ages.
An accessible bathroom layout
There are several space-specific factors to consider where accessible bathrooms for the elderly are concerned:
- Where does the bathroom open out to (e.g. a hallway or bedroom) and is there enough space to manoeuvre a walking frame or wheelchair?
- Is the doorway wide enough for an older person with impaired mobility to enter and exit comfortably?
- Is the layout easily accessible e.g. is the shower placed straight in front of the doorway so it’s easy to get to without negotiating corners and turns? Is there enough room between the toilet and the wash basin for legs and/or a walking frame or the addition of a support frame?
- Are the bathroom suite products chosen and positioned with care e.g. is there any need for a floating sink so that a wheelchair can fit underneath or a swing skin that can be moved away from the wall? Is there any need for a lavatory or bath with an adjustable height so that it’s easier to access?
If executed by a skilled and experienced bathroom design company such as Room H2o, you could have an accessible bathroom that has as much style as any regular bathroom while considering comfort and safety for all. It’s possible to make your facilities suitable for the entire family, from young children to elderly relatives, and we can show you how we will achieve your vision with our in-house CAD bathroom design software.
Strike it safe with bathroom lighting
Good lighting in any bathroom is essential. Dim or insufficient illumination that hides potential trip and slip hazards makes accidents less avoidable and more likely. Make sure the lighting is bright and consistent, particularly around the toilet, hand basin and shower/bath areas. You could even consider adding low level floor lighting to these key areas to provide extra clarity.
This does not mean that functionality has to supersede flair, as well as the choice of cool (white-toned) crisp lighting and warm (yellow-toned) subtle lighting options that compliment your interior design theme you can opt for mood-lighting (including lights of different colours, contrasts and tempos) in and around the bath or shower to aid the relaxation of the bathing ritual.
You should also consider light switches, are they easy for those with impaired mobility to reach and operate? Trends are leaning towards lights with motion sensors, which are not always ideal for those who may be seated for extended periods, and large wall pads with an easy click on and off without strain.
Bathroom mirrors and shelving solutions with built-in border or back lighting can add seamless style as well as extra light while LED ceiling spot lights can add a good overall natural-light feel to brighten smaller or darker spaces that do not benefit from windows or a sky-light.
Consider a walk-in bath or walk-in shower
Traditional baths have high sides, which can be tricky for people with limited mobility or balance issues to get in and out of. And, while useful short-term, bathtub steps for the elderly are not always the ideal future-proofing solution. Both height-adjustable baths and walk-in baths both are available as excellent alternatives.
While adjustable baths can be lowered to a more manageable step-up height, walk-in baths can be entered at ground-level and then, once the door is shut, filled to temperature. But the water will need fully draining before you can get back out of the bath. Bath seats for the elderly are also a wonderful solution for those who can’t submerge but still enjoy a good soak.
Those who would still like the occasional use of a bath with the more regular use of a shower for everyday ablutions, should consider a modern ‘shower bath’ options. A bath/shower can be fitted with a semi-frameless or frameless glass shower enclosure to make access easier. These modified designs provide adequate room for you and a carer to assist, if required.
Even a small change, such as installing a slim shower tray, will help keep the floor level and minimise tripping hazards. We can also fit shower seats for the elderly complete with foot rests, making things more comfortable if you have difficulty standing for any length of time. Shower chairs or stalls could be wall-mounted for extra stability or foldable to save space when not in use.
Remember, Room H2o are specialists in made-to-measure shower enclosures so we can design and install a walk in shower for the elderly to suit your exacting requirements and budget.
Those with limited mobility may want to consider the installation of a complete wet room – this comprises a fully waterproof level tiled floor throughout the bathroom with no ledges or trip hazards. Most contemporary wet rooms are suitable for individuals who need wheelchair access or require a shower seat on wheels.
In terms of the shower itself, it’s best to opt for a shower hose with a longer length and to have a shower head fitted on a riser, rather than in a fixed position, and on a side wall that’s easier to reach when seated. The ability to adjust or even remove the shower head means that it can used when standing or seated.
Slip-resistant bathroom floor coverings
The most obvious and important aspect of any bathroom is the floor. Remember, there is no such thing as anti-slip flooring for bathrooms. Whether you choose vinyl, porcelain tiles or natural stone make sure that you choose one which has a high degree of slip-resistance – wet or dry. Textured finishes, such as matt or brushed, are best and something like a porcelain tile that has a high water-resistance is good too. The tiling professionals at our sister company UK Tiles Direct can advise you on the best choice of slip-resistant flooring as a bathroom aid for the elderly.
The addition of an extractor fan is also good to reduce the level of ambient moisture in the bathroom during and after use. Less condensation, especially on the floor, means less chance of a slip hazard. Don’t use any rugs or mats which do not have a slip resistant backing and keep carpeting to a minimum for maximum hygiene and ease of negotiating a wheelchair or walking frame around. Underfloor heating is an excellent way to keep damp bathroom floors dry but it’s not always suitable for use with vinyl floor coverings so take this into careful consideration when choosing a surface that will tick all your boxes for practically and safety.
Use of different types, finishes, colours or patterns of floor covering could help the visually-impaired to navigate their way around the different areas of the bathroom with more ease. Eyesight often deteriorates with age and it’s not always practical to shower with your specs on!
Stylish grab rails for the elderly and accessible toilets
For many older people moving from standing to sitting, or vice versa, can be difficult. This is a particular problem with modern toilets, which can be quite low to the ground. Consider replacing your facilities with a raised toilet, available in a range of stylish designs and colours and in heights from 390 mm to 460 mm. Alternatively, a lavatory with an adjustable height could be a good option.
Grab rails positioned at strategic points in the shower, bathtub or around the toilet are a must for an accessible bathroom or washroom. Modern designs with stylish finishes, such as chrome or stainless steel, which match taps and towel rails avoid the functional ‘hospital’ look while contrasting metals alongside concrete or stone-effect tiles could add an urban-chic to your overall bathroom design.