Design an 'aging in place' bathroom with style

'Aging in Place' – your own place that is. There's a growing trend to remain in our own 'place' well into our twilight years.

stylish bathroom designed to be accessible for aged and disabled people
ARTICLE Patricia Moore

Given that the body we have at fifty may well be showing signs of wear and tear by the time we’re seventy, future-proofing during a renovation project is the smart way to ensure your home will adapt to any changes along the way.
White motif, open-space accessible bathroom
The bathroom is an area that’s often overlooked, says Geoff Penrose, general manager at Lifetime Design Ltd.
“They key aspects are ensuring there is enough space and that the plumbing is in the right place. Getting these right means if you have to change a shower hub for a level entry shower then the infrastructure is already there.”
Geoff also advises putting “a few pieces of wood into the framing”, to enable the easy attachment of grab rails. “And locating a bathroom on the primary living area means, should circumstances change, it’s easily accessible and adaptable for your needs.”
According to an experienced caregiver, bathrooms can be a huge problem, with issues including showers that are too small or require stepping over a ‘barrier’ to get in and out.
Spacious bathroom with small glass barrier shower and easily accessible toilet
Very few of her clients are able to have a bath and she cites an instance where looking to the future could have saved a lot of problems.
“My client insisted on a bath as well as a shower when she moved house, and as the space was limited, the shower had to be a very small one. When she could no longer use the bath it became a waste of space and there wasn’t room in the shower for the seat she really needed.”
Interest is growing in future-proofing reports Refresh Renovations renovation consultants, builders and project managers.
“And it’s a lot easier on the finances when in a couple when both people are earning.”
He sees ease of use as paramount. “Level entry showers, and not having the shower over the bath; room to move, particularly if a wheelchair or frame may end up having to be used. It’s becoming more common to make entry doors wider and greater use is being made of cavity slider systems which make access easier.”
Another option is Allegion’s Reduced Swing Doorset, a two-panel door, hinged at two points, which project manager Darren Maxwell says fits the same was as a conventional doorset but reduces the arc – or the swing of the door – by approximately two-thirds.
“It’s widely used in hospitals and public buildings, and in a home situation it gives greater flexibility for people with impairments to maneuver their way through.”
The Reduced Swing Door also allows for more efficient use of floor space, says Darren. “Spend the money on the things that matter most,” says Methven Group’s design and creative director Kent Sneddon.
No barrier shower design for an 'aging in place' bathroom
“This could be a shower like the Satinjet that creates the best experience at just 9 litres per minute. Then consider things like grap rails and seating.”
Satinjet’s flow restrictor has the potential to save up to 50% on hot water energy costs and 55% on the cost of water for the shower, says Kent.
Smarter use of energy is a point Jennifer Price, GWA Group marketing manager, also makes. “Mixers that save on energy costs are a simple and cost-effective was to minimize the power bill. And, where gas is an option, consider installing a gas continuous water heater such as Dux Endurance.”
While the bathroom is a place to enjoy the bliss of a steamy shower or a fragrant tub, it can also be a trap for the unwary; ACC figures list the bathroom as one of the most dangerous rooms inside the home with around 17,000 accidents a year, mostly from slips, trips and falls.
“Use of non-slip material is becoming an important consideration, as well as materials that are easily cleaned – that gets harder in the later years. Wet rooms are a great feature that allow for better and safer access and ease of use,” says Refresh Renovations.
However, uptake of wet rooms has been slow, says Michael Hoyle, national sales director at Crest Shower Systems. “Given time there will be more demand for this option.” Their Ava system is one which can be integrated into a wet room.
Tiles tick a lot of boxes. Their good looks and durability make them a popular choice and today’s options cater for every demand, including level entry showers, “They’re all graded, with polished and matte finishes and a range of surfaces including non-slip,” says Peter Roberts, managing director at Tile Space.
Classical, spacious, accessible bathroom with glass barrier shower and lower height toilet
“We always advise customers to pick a classical style that’s going to last. Everyone likes to add character but if you go for something too radical it can date and might not be appealing if you want to sell.”
As we get older we like the place to look a little brighter, says Dave Barlow, Lighting Plus group general manager. LED lighting, which has transformed the way we light our homes, has a number of applications in the bathroom, he says. This is highlighted in one of the displays in one of their new stores, which features a number of customer engagement areas.
“In the bathroom area we have a wall-hung vanity that’s lit underneath and shines onto the floor. It’s a very simple LED strip that can be left on all night and makes it easy to find your way to the bathroom.”
Think longevity, says Mike Thorburn, managing director, ECC Ltd. “Use lights that are good quality and ensure the space is well lit so you don’t have to change the lighting later on. Installing a night light is always a good practical idea.”
LED lights are great energy savers. “A good quality LED fitting, such as the D900 downlight from Brightgreen, will last for 30 years plus. It’s a cost-effective way to go.” Another useful suggestion is installing magnified mirrors incorporating lights. “These are great in bathrooms especially for those who are short sighted.”
An 'aging in place' bathroom with lowered toilet and sink basin
And don’t overlook the loo. The height of a toilet is important and while an increase of around 40mm may not sound a lot, it can make a great deal of difference. “We guide clients to the new overheight toilets from Ideal Standard,” says Robertson bathware marketing and export manager Dean Davis. “They look similar to normal models but are higher. This brings ease to joints for people as they age.”
Robertson Bathware also manufacture their own range of wall-hung vanities with soft-close drawers, “again so the user can bend and reach into a drawer without putting pressure on the joints.”
The bathroom’s a small space, but it can have big impact on the independence of people who plan on ‘aging in place’. By thinking, ‘what if?’ you can enjoy years more independence and dignity in the place you call home.

You might be interested in reading: Bathroom styles.

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This article by Patricia Moore featured on page 78 of Issue 011 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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