When you hear the phrase “aging in place” regarding residential bathroom design, it’s not hard to imagine a clinical, unappealing hospital-like room, unadorned and simply equipped with grab bars, high toilet, and the like. But that’s not the picture you have to paint today when it comes to bathrooms designed for “visitability” (a measure of a place's ease of access for people with disabilities) or aging-in-place. The elements that make a bathroom safer and easier to navigate for seniors (or those with disabilities) are actually elements that make the bathroom safer and better for everyone regardless of their age or ability. And as an added bonus, many “universal” design elements also happen to be very much on-trend and are being designed by manufacturers with style in mind for today's discerning homeowners.
While residential bathroom design for aging-in-place does not have to conform to the stringent rules set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the basic tenets of ADA are a good guideline. With more homeowners choosing to remodel their current residences in order to say in them long term, makers of products, as well as interior design and renovation specialists, are more attuned than ever with making homes work for the duration--no matter the age or stage of life.
In the end, the whole idea is to design for comfort, convenience, safety, and access. Let’s take a look at some of those elements and see how designers are beautifully incorporating them into modern residential bathrooms.
Sink & Vanity
"Floating" or wall-hung vanities are right on trend for residential design. They offer a sleek and modern look, can accommodate users of various heights, and can make a smaller bathroom seem visually larger. They are also just the thing for universal design. Ideally, sinks and vanities should be wall-mounted so that there's space underneath for someone seated in a wheelchair. Even better, if you have the room for them, countertops at two different heights are a good option for every member of the family. (When it comes to safely and securely mounting your wall-hung vanity, we have just the supports you need. Shop for our Free Hanging Vanity Brackets here.)
At the sink, lever handled faucets are best for accessibility. Foot pedal contolled faucets are also handy and are great for children, too.
A "comfort-height" toilet can make a big difference for most adults with limited ability and looks nicer than a toilet extender, but toilet height should be chosen with the height of the user in mind. Ensure the toilet paper can be easily reached from the sitting position – this is easily and inexpensively accomplished with a stand-alone toilet paper holder that anyone of any ability would appreciate (just ask Barbara Streisand!).
Open shelves are very on-trend for aesthetic reasons, but they are also practical for being able to see and access things easily. We offer both traditional shelf brackets (for a rustic or industrial-chic vibe) or "hidden" brackets that mount to the wall studs before the sheetrock goes up for a more modern, streamlined look. Check out our Free Hanging Shelf Brackets here.