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How to Retrofit a Bathroom for Aging in Place

 Posted on: October 20th, 2021

How to Retrofit a Bathroom for Aging in Place
Newly renovated modern handicapped bathroom for the elderly and disabled, with grab bars and wheelchair access

If you wish to remain in your home long into old age, you may need to make some adjustments to your home to allow for greater accessibility and safer aging in place.

Your home’s bathrooms are going to be key areas to focus on. A failure to retrofit your bathroom for aging in place could make it a hazardous environment. For people who have mobility concerns, the potentially cramped or slippery nature of bathrooms can be quite troublesome.

Here is an overview of some of the steps you can take to remodel your bathroom and add accessibility features that will allow you to continue using it even as you grow old.

Rubber slip pad for btter traction in the shower
Rubber slip pad for btter traction in the shower

Install slip-resistant coatings and features on the floors

A majority of injuries to elderly people are caused by slips and falls in the home. The bathroom is an area where these types of injuries are more likely to occur due to the presence of moisture as well as the types of flooring likely to be used (often smooth tile or laminate).

Slip-resistant rugs and mats can help provide better traction in the bathroom. However, these aren’t necessarily the best solution, as they can wear down over time, or become a tripping hazard if they bunch up.

The safer option is to install slip-resistant coatings on showers, bathtub floors and even on your bathroom floor itself. This will help you significantly reduce your risk of a slip and fall injury while you are using the bathroom.

ADA Grab Bars in two areas for easy accessiblity
ADA Grab Bars in two areas for easy accessiblity

Install grab bars in strategic areas

Another key amenity for preventing slips and falls is the grab bar. You should install grab bars near the shower, tub and toilet—anywhere you might need to give yourself a little extra support while sitting, standing or climbing.

Grab bars are easily to install, but you need to make sure they are properly anchored in place so they will support the weight of anyone using them. This typically means installing them into wall studs so they will be sturdy and reliable. Using drywall anchors typically won’t give you enough weight capacity.

Shower with seat installed
Shower with seat installed

Put in a shower seat

People who experience aches and pains in their back or hips as they grow older are likely to have that pain worsen as they stand for extended periods.

This is why aging in place experts often recommend the installation of shower seats in your shower. If you begin to feel aches and pains while standing in the shower, you can take a seat and continue the shower.

Again, this will also prevent you from falling down, should you feel yourself losing your stability while washing yourself or standing in the shower.

Wide entrance for wheelchair or walker
Wide entrance for wheelchair or walker

Ensure accessibility for your shower, tub and toilet

This is an especially important element of retrofitting your bathroom if you rely on a wheelchair or walker for improved mobility.

Accessible showers may feature roll-in functionality wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. You can also create walk-in bathtubs that prevent you from having to climb in and step over a ledge. Even for people who do not have mobility issues, these are good features to consider adding because the older we get, the more likely we are to lose our balance.

You should also consider adjusting your toilet height. You can either swap out your existing toilet for a new one that prevents you from having to go down as far, or you can purchase a seat extender that give you some flexibility with your settings for your toilet you already have in place.

Handicap accessible toilets also exist, but may or may not be a feasible option for you, depending on the amount of space you have in your bathroom.

Chair lift installed for multi-level home
Chair lift installed for multi-level home

Try to stay on one floor

The homes that are most conducive to aging in place are ranch-style homes, where everything is on a single level. If you have a multi-story home, you should start to consider how you can adjust your layout so you can remain in your home, if moving is not an option you wish to consider.

This may involve completely redoing your first-floor bathroom, or adding another bathroom that gives you the space you need to make it fully accessible to meet your needs as you age.

If keeping everything on the same floor isn’t possible, you should look into installing a chair lift to get easier access to your second floor or basement.

By making some key adjustments to your bathrooms, you can make the prospect of aging in place much more realistic.