How to Improve Bathroom Safety for Seniors

Posted by Andrew Baker
Remodeling Project Specialist, Brubaker Inc.


Given the high cost of moving into a retirement home, as well as the general desire for many people to stay in their home as long as possible, aging in place is a common phrase when it comes to bathroom remodeling. There are many options to consider that go well beyond the standard answer you’re likely to hear which is “add grab bars”.

  • Commode: consider changing to a “comfort height” commode, which is typically somewhere around 18″ high off the floor. This height will make sitting down and getting up off the toilet safer and easier.

  • Grab bars: grab bars aFaucetre an excellent way of making your bathroom shower or tub surround as well as the commode area safer. Today, you have a myriad of designer grab bar options that can actually enhance the overall look of your bathroom. There are even special anchors available so that you can safely install a grab bar on a fiberglass surround.

  • Faucets: replace your bathroom faucets with lever handles, both at the sink and in the showering area. Knobs can be difficult to use, especially for anyone suffering from arthritis. Adding a handheld shower head in the bathing area makes it easier to use a shower seat, as well as making it easier to clean the shower walls.
  • Flooring: there is not a specific floor that is best, however you certainly want to avoid anything slippery like a polished porcelain or marble. In an older home, it is common to have floors installed over the years on top of each other, which builds up the height of the threshold. Consider having all of the old floors removed down to the subfloor so that your new floor is the same height as the adjacent flooring. This will make it safer, especially if you need to use a walker or a wheelchair.

  • Shower head-grab barLighting: a vent fan is often overlooked in a bathroom, yet it plays a very important role. Consider changing your existing vent fan, and while you’re at it, install a new one with a night light feature. Also, change out old vanity lighting fixtures with new LED fixtures for better and brighter lighting. You can always install the lights via a dimmer switch if you want complete control over the brightness.
  • Tub to shower conversion: more people than ever are taking out their existing bathtubs and replacing them with showers. This even applies to homeowners with only one bathroom. While most people will still tell you that you need 1 bathtub in the house to sell it, people are realizing that a safe bathroom to let you stay in your home is more important than when it eventually comes time to sell the house. Consider a shower with a built in seat if you have the room, or a flip down seat in a smaller shower.

  • Vanity Area: almost all new vanities installed today tend to be “kitchen counter height”. This will help reduce stress on your back as you bend over to use the sink. When changing your cabinetry, also consider having more drawers installed and/or pull out shelves included in your new cabinets. Just like in your kitchen, drawers and pull outs help you access what you need without having to get down and crawl into your cabinet.

If you’d like to learn more about aging in place and how it can help you stay in your home longer, or about our other services such as kitchen and laundry room remodeling, please give us a call at 717-299-5641 or stop in our Design Center.

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