By Gunnar Baldwin and Lenora Campos, Ph.D.
Remodeling the bathroom is a good starting place to make a home more sustainable for aging in place. AARP research shows that more than half (52%) of American homeowners age 45 and older are interested in remaining in their homes as they get older. Green remodeling reduces monthly utility bills while universal design elements increase comfort and improve lifestyle, and all people — no matter their age — appreciate additional comfort and safety. Today, advances in technology make it possible to improve both convenience and performance.
Additional features that are popular for the enlarged spa master bath:
- Exercise equipment such as stationary bicycle, and treadmill;
- Separate tub with features such as warm air injected through tubing that creates a massage and aroma therapy experience accompanied by music systems integrated into the tub itself and chromatherapy lights to induce that relaxed mood;
- A separate shower without entry barriers in case the homeowners ever need to wheel in. One way to achieve this is to have the floor gently slope toward a perimeter drain at the far side.
- Fold down benches and grab bars that match the décor of the shower stall provide for the eventuality that they be needed.
- Height adjustable hand showers on a slide bar that double as stationary showers accommodate differences in height and users who sit on a shower bench.
- Fixtures chosen with universal design features — such as increased height – make them easier to use. Universal height high-efficiency 1.28 gpf toilets make it easier for the user to rise from a seated position and a fashionable grab bar aids this challenge, so common among the elderly.
- Bidet toilet seats, (see TOTO Washlet Showcase) offer washing, drying, and deodorizing features help owners preserve their dignity and independence when toileting. Washlet personal cleansing systems provide a luxurious spa experience only truly appreciated by those that have tried them. They forestall the need for nursing assistance or moving to assistive care facilities, a last resort feared by most elderly.
- Decorative grab bars outside of the shower and bath are integrated into the design, so they do not to appear institutional. Often they may appear to be a rail at the top of wainscoting or an integral part of a counter or vanity top.
- Faucets, shower valves, and tub fillers should be equipped with anti-scald devices that also protect from thermal shock, which might result in falls. They should be certified to function successfully at the flow rates of the fittings installed. Showerhead flow rates below 2.5 gpm require special attention to this detail.
- Vanities may be on concealed wheels allowing for removal from under the counter to provide access by wheelchair.
Final consideration for baby boomers’ remodeling project is the provision for a first floor bedroom with bath to accommodate an elderly parent or “boomerang child.” A live-in caregiver may also use this space if the need arises. Until that time, it may be used as a study or guest room.