Design for Aging – 5 Things to Consider: Part 1

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Design for Aging in Place.

What is it? Tuck-in, this is going to be a long and uncomfortable post, but I promise it will be worth your time!

Did you know?

Tile flooring can last a lifetime.
Most of todays cabinets can last up to 50 years.
The average cost of a small bathroom remodel is $16,000.
The average lifespan is 79 years.
When it comes to aging most baby boomers (85%) want to live in their own homes rather than an assisted living or a nursing home.
The one-year risk of mortality for people aged 65 years or older after a hip fracture is about 50%, and increases with age.

Interior designers play a vital role in creating spaces that focus on health, safety, and well-being.

Okay, that last one was a tad morbid, but were talking about aging in place today! No aging topic is taboo. My point is, these are ALL things you should think about when you remodel your bathroom.

Beyond slipping and falling on wet tile, I bet you’ve never thought about how a bathroom remodeling project could pose a danger as you age. On the flip side, I bet you didn’t know that good design could enhance your life as you age instead of endangering it. I’d also wager that if you’re under 50 you’ve never given ANY thought AT ALL to the intersection of bathroom remodeling and aging, but you should!

As I mentioned above, bathroom remodeling projects are pricey and the materials used in remodeling projects, like tile and cabinets, are meant to last a long time. If you spend the time and money to remodel your bathroom at 40, you really should be thinking about the room will work for you when you are 70 or 80 because it could last that long!

This bathroom does not look like a nursing home, but has some wonderful safety features. The shower has a level entry, which can help reduce falls. The door also opens out, which makes access easier if someone does fall inside the shower.

Remodeling a bathroom can create opportunities for making aging in your home easier, and if designed appropriately, remodeling your bathroom can actually improve your quality of life and reduce your risk for injury as you age. A well designed bathroom that has been planned with aging concepts in mind will allow you to adapt the space over time. Which, in turn, will allow you to live in your house longer.

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s nice, but I don’t want my bathroom to look like a nursing home, I’m only 55.” I’ve got great news, it doesn’t have to. You can have a beautiful, “aging-in-place” friendly space.

Or you may be thinking, “I’m only 45, I don’t want to think about what I’ll need when I’m 80.” That last fact I mentioned at the beinning? The one about mortality and hip fractures? That is the one that really scares me. I’m in my 40’s, but I think about how fast the last 20 years have passed me by. Sixty-five will be a reality before I have time to stop and wonder where the time went. So, I think about what my bathroom is going to look like at 65 and beyond all the time. AND… lucky you, I’m going to share some of those ideas with you!

Flooring

Since I mentioned it first, let’s talk about the best way to reduce the risk of falls. Selecting appropriate flooring is the first step. When selecting flooring, if you want a larger square tile or a plank tile choose a porcelain tile with a flatter finish. However, a higher grout-to-tile ratio will provide more a textured surface and improve slip resistance. A major concern for some of the clients with whom I’ve worked is keeping all that grout clean. The good news is that there are new grout products on the market, like Bostik’s QuartzLock urethane grout, which resist mildew and reduce the cleaning work. Great news if you want a smaller tile, but less work.

This tile has a honed finish, is smaller in size (4×4) and has a urethane grout. This will help reduce slipping and will be easy for the homeowner to keep clean.

Grab bars

Oh! The dreaded grab bar! No one like to think about grab bars. The very words conjure images of frailty and feebleness. The need to be assisted to stand. The image image of the stainless steel grab-bars that don the walls of nursing homes. Here’s the thing, grab bars can be attractive. Most manufacturers of bathroom hardware, like Delta and Kohler, make very attractive grab bars.  There are many that look like towel bars and toilet paper dispensers.

If you’re really not ready for grab bars, during a remodel you can still prep your walls for grab bars by blocking the wall. Blocking is the application of plywood between the studs so that the hardware for a future grab bar has an anchor. If the wall is not appropriately blocked, the future grab bar can be easily pulled from the wall if enough weight is applied, essentially making it a safety hazard.

This is what most of us envision when grab bars come to mind…

Our mind automatically shift to walkers and wheelchairs when we think of grab bars.

But they can be this…

This is a beautiful grab bar by Delta, that looks like a towel bar.

So, safety does not need to look clinical! Delta and Kohler make several attractive options that you can purchase at your local home improvement store.

Since I originally posted this blog post, I divided into 2 parts. Stay tuned for the re-post of Aging in Place Gracefully: Part 2 next week!

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4 thoughts on “Design for Aging – 5 Things to Consider: Part 1”

  1. Nice post, Julie! I LOVE all the universal design trends that are gaining popularity like curbless showers and pretty grab bars. Good design should work well for all ages and abilities! Thanks for sharing!

    1. julielampe says:

      Thank you!

  2. Darla Powell says:

    Great post. We are doing a master bath right now for an elderly couple and the grab bars are fab. Zero entry shower too.

    1. julielampe says:

      Sounds like a great project!

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