Changes Seniors Can Make For Accessibility
You’ve placed your towels within easy reach of the shower and removed all the rugs without non-skid backing. The small changes I recommended in my last post are a great start, but to make a substantial impact on reducing bathroom falls and making your home more accessible to everyone, it’s likely time to call a specialist like me before making any changes.
Add Grab Bars
Grab bars are an important addition at any age. They are also one of the easiest additions you can make to a bathroom, even a small one. They must be well secured through blocking to a wall in order to help support a person’s weight in the shower, bathtub and at the toilet when the user is older or if there’s a disability.
Contrasting color grab bars remain visible when not wearing glasses and despite vision changes in a steamy bathroom. Install them in the shower or bathtub in close proximity to shampoo, soap, and washcloths. Avoid suction cup grab bars if possible as the suction may disappear over time.
Outside the shower, grab bar towel bar holders perform double duty by avoiding the danger of a regular towel holder collapsing under a person’s weight. This is an innovation in universal design, a concept I will talk more about later.
At the toilet, grab bars should be placed to aid rising or lowering to the toilet seat. A diagonal bar can be useful for people of all heights. Consider a smaller diameter bar if grip strength is an issue.
Replace Sink Handles
Lever handles at the sink and in the shower or bathtub will allow better mixing of hot and cold water, reducing the risk of scalding. Even more importantly, it is much easier for a person with arthritic hands, limited strength, or mobility issues to control independently.
Install a Comfort Height Toilet
Standard toilets are generally around 12” in height. A comfort height toilet (17–19” measured from the floor to the top of the toilet seat) or attaching a portable toilet seat riser, which may have grab bars attached, can make getting up from the toilet easier. Moving a wall-mounted toilet paper holder so it is in close reach is another small project that reduces the prospect of losing your balance.
Reorient Your Bathroom Door
Optimally, the bathroom doorway would be 36” wide without a raised threshold. If that’s not feasible immediately, use swing offset hinges that add several inches in width to the entrance and reorient the door so that it opens outward. This will open up interior space and ensure easy access should someone fall against the door. At the same time, replace the traditional door handle with a lever handle.
Install Non-Slip Flooring
Non-slip flooring such as textured tile is both easy to maintain and is less dangerous when wet. High gloss finishes become slick very quickly, and even your non-slip bathmats may move under duress.
Elevate Your Electrical Outlets
We advise moving electrical outlets so they are easier to access as bending can lead to dizziness or loss of balance, installing additional vanity lighting over the sink to reduce glare from overhead lights, and if replacing light switches, do so with lighted light switches close to the door.
Every home is different, but to stay in yours as long as possible and make it accessible to people of every age and capability, these changes can help. In my next post, I’ll talk about creating an accessible bathroom from scratch, whether as part of a renovation or as new construction.