Make a bathroom remodel the priority when developing a plan to stay in your home as you get older. That’s sound advice from professional care-givers, insurers and doctors. The concept of “aging in place” is nothing new in Madison WI. People have always wanted to grow old in their own homes. Now, more than ever, there are ways to insure that can happen – and happen safely. National Institute on Aging statistics show bathrooms are where 80% of home falls happen. People slip on wet floors and fall in the shower. As we age our balance isn’t what it used to be. A slight step up into a shower never used to get a second thought. Now, it can be the first step to disaster.
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Fortunately, it’s also one where you can make the most changes. Aging in place is based on two things: convenience and safety. Looking down the road, the bathroom is the place to start preparing your home for a changing lifestyle as you get older.
Bathroom Remodel Is Cost-effective
In recent year the number of people planning to grow old in their existing home has steadily increased. That trend shows no sign of slowing. Spending money on upgrades and modifications is considered a wise investment compared to fees for assisted living and similar facilities. Staying where you are comfortable makes sense. Especially when a remodeling plan makes it safer as well.
Getting older brings with it new challenges and new risks. Changes are necessary. Since the bathroom is where people are most vulnerable it is the place to start. Renovating bathrooms to accommodate an aging lifestyle includes both simple additions and major changes.
Long-term Bathroom Upgrades
Remodeling a bathroom with a look toward making it functional for an aging resident is different from updating style and décor. While style is always a consideration, safety and convenience come first. Making effective changes may mean completely revamping a floor plan.
As we get older one of the biggest challenges in navigating stairs. A first floor bathroom is a real asset. Some older two-story homes may only have one full bathroom. And it is likely on the second floor where the bedrooms are. That made sense when the home was built, but not 50 or 60 years later. Fortunately, modern construction techniques employed by skilled contractors can overcome the obstacle. A first floor bathroom addition is possible. You may have to trade off another room – den, porch or office – but it is worth it.
Take a look at what goes into preparing an existing bathroom to make it functional for many more years. There are basic “quick fixes” and long-term structural modifications to consider.
Review Bathroom Updates Inch By Inch
Preventing falls in the No. 1 priority for bathroom renovations. There are simple changes you can do on your own, but most require skilled professionals. Consider these basics:
- Install grab bars – grab bars are not stylish (although they come in colors) but they provide a lot of leverage for getting in and out of the shower and toilet areas. They’re secured to walls in strategic places. Simple grab bars increase safety immediately – both by what they do and the confidence and peace of mind they provide. To match décor the latest versions are built into shower shelves and some double as toilet paper holders.
- Non-slip flooring – older tile and vinyl bathroom floors are often slippery when they’re wet. Bath mats and area rugs are common solutions but they are also a tripping hazard for someone unsteady on their feet. Installing flooring with textured, non-slip surfaces is a good choice. When a new floor goes in is a great time to consider an under-floor heating system, too.
- Improved lighting – lighting is easy to overlook. However, a well-lit bathroom is a safer space. An additional consideration is light fixture placement. When you’re 30-years-old changing a light bulb isn’t a concern. When you’re 70 it might put you at risk. Modern light fixtures placed low enough to reach without a ladder or stool make sense. Lights with remote on/off sensors are beneficial, too.
- Easy-access cabinetry – daily medication is a fact of life for people over the age of 65 according to the Center For Disease Control (CDC). During a bathroom remodel, making sure prescription bottles are within easy reach should be a consideration. And, larger medicine cabinets are useful, too. Overall, bathroom cabinets and countertops should be lower than normal with leg room to accommodate a wheel chair or someone sitting down.
Bathroom Fixture Upgrades
Floors, counters and lights are all important. In addition, the central bathroom fixtures need attention.
- Showers and bathtubs – the most dangerous space in the bathroom is in and around a bathtub or shower. These spaces are where about 30% of seniors’ accidents happen. Stepping into and out of a tub isn’t an issue for younger homeowners. For and elderly person lifting a foot up and over even a short edge on walk-in shower is a challenge. It takes balance they just may not have. Curb-less showers (some accommodating wheel chairs) and walk-in bathtubs are options worth considering. Many homeowners are opting for a large walk-in shower and removing a bathtub from the master bathroom. Your personal favorites and physical condition dictate what’s best. Modern technology can make almost any plan come true. Something as simple as replacing shower curtains with glass doors – doubling as grab bars – makes a difference.
- Toilet options – no longer is the toilet a “one size fits most” appliance. For a person struggling to stand from a seated position, toilet height makes a difference. As part of a remodeling job, a new tall toilet is far better than an add-on seat.
- Sink choices – sinks equipped with faucets operated by handles rather than knobs – better yet, by touch or even touchless motion sensors – are better for anyone with arthritic hands. Placing the sink at a height easily reached from a wheel chair is wise, too.
- Countertops – often overlooked when installing new sinks, countertops have an impact on older folks, too. Consider a top with contrasting colored edges for better depth perception. A bathroom countertop with rounded edges and corners reduces fall injuries.
Bathroom Remodel For Aging – Final Analysis
Overall remodeling plans for aging in place (also called Universal Design) take into account not only the bathroom but the hallways and rooms leading to it. Collectively, consider:
- Wide (5-feet by 3-feet minimum) showers with no-step shower entry. Install the largest walk-in shower your home will accommodate. You won’t be sorry.
- Grab bars around toilet and bathtub as well as in the shower – reinforced walls if necessary.
- Light switches and all controls no higher than 48 inches above the floor for easy access when seated.
- Electrical outlets at least 15 inches above the floor for easy access while seated.
- Levers instead of knobs for doors and faucets.
- Entry doorways at least 34 inches wide – the Americans With Disabilities Act calls for a 5-foot turning radius for wheel chairs.
- Well-lighted hallways at least 36 inches wide
It’s never too soon to plan for growing old. A lot is said about getting your “financial house” in order. Is it time to take a sharp pencil to plans for getting your real house in order? When you’re ready to discuss all the options available call Sims Exteriors & Remodeling at 608-825-4500, or email us. We’ll review your options and evaluate your space. Making a change for the years ahead is a big step and you want to do everything exactly right. We understand the value of aging in place and are ready to complete the perfect bathroom remodel for your Madison WI home.