You might be asking yourself right now, “what is aging in place?” It is a big topic right now that is especially hitting home with many baby boomers, but is also relevant with anyone doing a renovation and considering how long the plan to be in any given place.
As we get older, our bodies unfortunately begin to deteriorate. We find that it may not be as easy to get around and do the day to daily tasks we are accustomed to doing on our own. That is why this is such an important topic, because it isn’t something that only affects a select few individuals, it is something that will affect us all.
The things you need can range from a bench in your shower because it’s easier to shave your legs, you’ve had a recent surgery and need to be careful about where the water is going, and how much standing you are doing, or that you are older and may need help bathing at some point — to adding grab bars.
Although many of us don’t like to think about these things — because they are scary and we just aren’t there yet in our lives — they are a reality. People are living longer, and with that longer life come challenges. Instead of letting these things creep up and surprise us, why not plan for them in your renovation process?
In a bathroom renovation, especially a first-floor master bath as is the case in this project, it’s a nice idea to offer some elements that will help give the space longevity and work with us as we age. These details can still be appealing and never have to look clinical with all of the pieces available in the world today. If you think you are going to be spending 20 years in your home, it is definitely worth weighing the options.
Some elements to consider are converting from a tub/shower combo to a shower only so you aren’t stepping over a large barrier while you are climbing in and out. If you are getting rid of that tub to make room for a larger shower, why not add a bench, you may be surprised at how much you like to have it, even before you need to use it!
Grab bars are another thing that people don’t like to think about. When you see grab bars, they just feel old and clinical, but I’m telling you there are so many more attractive options out there these days that finding something that both looks nice, and serves a great purpose as well, is relatively easy. Consider getting a small (12″) grab bar and positioning it vertically inside the shower door to hold onto as you climb in and out (this works well if you keep the tub too); and a medium grab bar (18″+/-) placed horizontally along the back wall to stabilize yourself as you are showering, or to hold onto as you maneuver yourself to the bench.
Consider adding a handheld-shower to your shower. If you have a bench, consider placing the handheld-shower near the bench, you can use it while you are young to shave your legs, and when you get older it will be positioned right were you need it. Hand showers also come in handy for cleaning the shower so that you don’t have to bucket the walls. (I could actually do a whole blog post on the conveniences of adding a handheld shower.) This particular unit is made by Hansgrohe called the “Select,” and it offers a button to help change the settings without having to rotate the whole face of the unit, making it much more user friendly for all ages.
Finally, when you are selecting the controls in your shower, remember to touch and feel different styles. See what is easy to hold and turn now, and consider if something is more difficult now, how it may be come even more challenging as you age. Everyone is a little bit different in what they prefer, but typically speaking, lever handles are easier to adjust quickly without having to really grip, where as a knob can become slippery and a cross handle can become challenging to really grab hold of.
Some things to consider outside the shower are the vanity area and the toilet. Most toilets these days are “comfort height,” but it’s a good thing to double check when you are ordering, it will make a big difference as you are using the facilities.
For your vanity, consider going with the newer kitchen height cabinets (which finish at 36″ with the top). This height makes it easier on our backs as we lean over the sink to brush our teeth, wash our faces, for men shaving, etc., of course if you are short or tall, these can typically be customized at a small increase that will probably be worth it in the long run. For the faucets, think about the way you turn on the faucet and what type of handle is easy for you to grip and use on a regular basis.
Lastly, consider adding a make-up counter to give yourself a place to sit down as you fix your hair and make-up. This space can feel very glamorous to the younger crowd, but can become very practical as you age.
Don’t forget about good lighting, which will make all the difference in the world as you use the space daily at any age!
The pictures in this post are for a couple that were renovating their bathroom. They are not old, but they are an older couple and we spent time discussing these things, because as she puts it, she plans to die in this house. We planned a space that takes many of these ideas and makes them a reality. The only thing you don’t see here are grab bars, which we have planned for, purchased and even stabilized the wall in preparation for them, but they don’t need them yet so she wants to wait to install them until the time comes.
Their bathroom came together beautifully. The client had been using the bathroom for about 6 months when I came to take these photos and they couldn’t stop raving about how much they really loved it!
Have you considered how you will age in your home and what things you could do to make your day to day life a bit easier?