Five Tips for Preparing your Bathroom for Senior Living

We spend a great deal of our time in the bathroom. The older we get, however, those otherwise simple tasks become more and more of a hassle. Fortunately, the bathroom does not have to be a stressful, hazardous place for those of us who are getting older.

Safety and comfort are the most important considerations when designing or remodeling a bathroom - or any room for that matter. With this in mind, here are a few ideas for preparing a bathroom for aging inhabitants.

Address Slip Hazards

A bathroom can be a slippery place. However, there are a number of measures one can take to prevent falls before they happen. Consider anti-skid tiling for your floor, or else have anti-slip coating applied to your existing tiles. This is also a good bet for the tub or shower, where slips can be an otherwise frequent occurrence.

Non-slip rugs and bathmats are a good option for absorbing moisture and keeping wet areas stable. Be sure to fasten down all mats with appropriate rug tape to keep them secure.

Consider grab bars

Grab bars placed around the bathroom offer sturdy support while moving around and adjusting. Consider having these bars installed around the sink, in and around the shower, and on either side of the toilet.

Grab bars do not have to be cold, sterile rods - there are any number of colored or veneered options to fit your bathroom décor. Also, consider textured handles for extra gripping.

Re-think Your Shower Design

A conventional shower can be a bit of a nuisance (not to mention hazard) for the elderly or handicapped. Depending on the extent of your aspirations, consider a walk-in or wheel-in shower design, with a "curb-less" entrance. This goes for tubs as well, and will greatly reduce the risk of slips or falls. And remember the non-slip coating!

In addition to grab bars, consider a shower seat for those that need or prefer to sit. These can either be built into a shower or installed separately into your existing shower. Be familiar with the options available, and try to match this with your specific needs or preference.

A detachable shower head can make things a lot easier - especially when sitting down. Fortunately, this simple addition does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. As with the seat, this can either be part of a new shower or installed separately.

Consider Plumbing and Toilet Repair
While grab bars can be a huge help around the commode, you might want to take it a bit further. A new toilet built at "comfort height" could just make life a lot easier. For a less-expensive option, consider elevated toilet seats. These seat extenders can be installed quite easily, and can be transported with very little effort.

Plumbing is another small consideration that might make a world of difference. Lever faucets - as opposed to ones that twist - are much easier on arthritic hands. There are even foot-controlled faucets that can be pumped with the feet - often an easier option for wheelchairs.

Basic Safety Measures

Aside from remodeling or replacing existing designs, it's always important to keep in mind basic precautions. Having a phone securely mounted on the wall is probably a good bet, especially for seniors living without personal assistance. Also, make sure your bathroom door can be opened from both sides, should the need arise.

Proper lighting is crucial. Make sure all your bulbs are efficient and functional, and keep a nightlight plugged in for midnight visits.

Let's face it: a traditional bathroom can be somewhat of a difficulty for senior citizens. Fortunately, there are plenty of steps one can take to adequately prepare a bathroom for the later years. When designing or remodeling a bathroom, safety and comfort are imperative. Consider the options out there, and match these with your own personal needs - what works for someone else might not work best for you.

Let common sense prevail. After all, no one wants to be duped by a pushy salesman. Consider these tips, do a bit of research, and be aware of what you need before opening your wallet.


— written by Chris Long

Chris Long is a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago suburbs. Chris writes for on bathroom DIY design for The Home Depot website. Chris also provides homeowners with advice on plumbing fixtures, vanities and tubs and showers forHome Depot.