Design for Aging – Bathroom Remodel meets Aging in Place, Part 1

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Design for aging requires preparing your home for the multiple stages of life, without having to make a move. Often this discussion can be uncomfortable because aging makes people uneasy, but it doesn’t have to! In this two-part post, we’ll review 5 things to consider when devising a design for aging.

Fun Design for Aging Facts:
  • Tile flooring can last a lifetime.
  • Most of today’s 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.
Design for aging in a bathroom remodel floor plan
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 plan a bathroom remodel.

Beyond slipping and falling on wet tile, I bet you’ve never thought about how a bathroom remodel project could pose a danger as you age. On the flip side, I bet you didn’t know that effective design for aging could enhance your life as you journey through life, 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 a bathroom remodel and aging, but you should!

Bathroom remodel 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 how the room will work for you when you are 70 or 80 because it could last that long!

Design for aging walk-in shower
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.
Adaptable Design

Remodeling a bathroom can create opportunities for making aging in place easier. 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. This 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 beginning? 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

Selecting appropriate flooring is the first step in reducing the risk of falls and an essential consideration in your design for aging. 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.

Design for aging small bathroom tile
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

No one likes to think about the dreaded grab bar. Those 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 not ready for grab bars, during a bathroom 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.

Safety does not need to look clinical! Design for aging should implement a functional component. With the right designer and finishing choices your bathroom remodel can be beautiful, too!

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Check out the Part 2 of this post here.

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