In the delicate balance of design, few spaces require as much nuance and consideration as the bathroom, especially when tailored to the golden years. Designing a bathroom that allows its occupants to age in place gracefully requires a strategic blend of beauty and functionality, ensuring a space of comfort, safety, and timeless elegance. From safety features and intentional lighting to the integration of smart technology, we will cover key considerations for the creation of an accessible and aesthetically pleasing senior-friendly bathroom.
Bathroom Safety Measures
Safety is a top priority when designing an aging-friendly bathroom. Implementing safety features in bathrooms, such as grab bars near toilets and in showers, non-slip flooring, and curbless or low-entry showers allow seniors to maintain independence in their homes for a longer period. A recent study from JAMA Internal Medicine1 revealed that around 12 million Americans aged 65 and above still living in their own homes, could improve their safety in bathing and toilet use with the assistance of specialized equipment.
Strategically placed grab bars offer stability and support near toilets and in showers, and opting for slip-resistant flooring surfaces can help lessen the risks of water spillage, a common occurrence in bathrooms. Choosing curbless or low-entry showers eliminates barriers for people who may have limited mobility and can also blend nicely into a more minimalistic and modern bathroom aesthetic. Of course, the most important factor is that these safety modifications enhance accessibility and reduce the risk of slips and falls, common concerns for aging individuals.
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Adequate lighting helps compensate for potential vision challenges that come with aging, improving overall safety and functionality. Incorporating features like task lighting is especially useful for seeing small objects, like medication, or objects of low contrast against a countertop surface. Like a spotlight for specific activities, task lighting creates the right amount of light exactly where it's needed to encourage a seamless bathroom routine. In addition to task lighting, designing a space that incorporates plenty of natural light can also be a game-changer.
According to a study by Politecnico di Torino and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)2, the benefits of daylight can be noticed especially in people with more serious visual impairments. This is mostly due to the high level of illumination and even distribution of natural lighting throughout a space. The study goes on to say that “lighting design” is one of the most useful and powerful tools to create an indoor environment adequate for those with vision challenges. So, strategically placed windows or innovative lighting solutions not only illuminate the space but also positively impact the overall safety of the environment.
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Smart Technology Integration
Integrating cutting-edge smart home technologies can simplify daily routines and even eliminate barriers that can be experienced by older individuals in their homes. Encourage aging homeowners to embrace the seamless functionality of voice-activated controls, intelligent thermostats, and state-of-the-art home monitoring systems to assist in managing the home environment more easily, which is particularly important for those with physical limitations.
For bathrooms in particular, using smart solutions to promote not only accessibility but also safety is crucial for homeowners choosing to age in place. For example, installing products like Docking Drawer in-drawer outlets into an existing bathroom vanity drawer not only results in a more aesthetically pleasing bathroom but also eliminates the need to access out-of-reach and awkwardly placed wall outlets, improving accessibility for anyone with limited mobility.
Docking Drawer outlets feature an interlocking thermostat that cuts power to the outlet when temperatures inside the drawer exceed 120°F, adding peace for family members and aging in place communities. Take safety even further by pairing the Docking Drawer outlet with the Blade Limit Switch, which senses the drawers position and de-energizes the in-drawer outlet as the drawer begins to close, offering another level of safety and peace of mind when it comes to powering hot tools and styling accessories inside the drawer. But don’t take our word for it—hear about a recent senior-friendly bathroom design completed by one of our customers below!
Customer Story: The Importance of Reducing Bathroom Clutter
Incorporating a product like Docking Drawer in-drawer outlets into a bathroom design or remodel helps to eliminate unsightly and potentially unsafe countertop clutter—just ask our customer and cabinet maker, Doug F., who recently remodeled a bathroom renovation project for an older couple.
"This was the second time we used a Docking Drawer outlet. The first one was in a kitchen to charge tablets and phones without them sitting on the counter. The client loved it. So when we were designing this bathroom, I asked if they used any appliances like hairdryers, curling irons, or electric toothbrushes, and when I told them we could store them in a drawer and get them off the counter to de-clutter the space, they were super excited."
—Doug F., Carriage Hill Cabinet Co.
Aside from improving the functionality of the bathroom, the installation of Docking Drawer outlets highlights the impact of creating an environment that gracefully adapts to the evolving needs of its occupants. For individuals with mobility challenges, the act of bending over to retrieve items from cluttered countertops can be a strenuous, and sometimes impossible, task. Docking Drawer in-drawer outlets provide a discreet and easily accessible solution for storing and powering everyday appliances. They not only declutter the space but also contribute to the overall safety of the bathroom by eliminating cords crossing over sinks to reach wall outlets, which can be frustrating and pose additional risks to seniors.
A Growing Demand for Senior-Friendly Bathroom Designs
The demand for aging-friendly bathroom design, and accessible design in general, isn't going away anytime soon, so it is important to begin considering the discussed features as essentials for any aging-friendly bathroom design. Here are a few reasons why:
Aging Population Dynamics
The growing demand for elderly-friendly home designs is intricately tied to demographic shifts, with an increasingly aging population globally. As more individuals enter their senior years, there is a heightened need for homes that cater to their unique requirements, ensuring comfort, safety, and accessibility.
Preference for Aging in Place
Many seniors express a strong preference for "aging in place," meaning they want to continue living in their own homes as they age. This preference has fueled the demand for home designs that seamlessly accommodate changing mobility needs and promote independence, allowing seniors to maintain a sense of familiarity and autonomy.
Elevated Awareness of Accessibility
There's a heightened awareness, both among homeowners and the design industry, regarding the importance of accessible living spaces. The demand for senior-friendly home designs reflects a broader societal recognition of the value of creating environments that support individuals through all stages of life, fostering inclusivity and well-being.
Begin Planning Your Aging-in-Place Bathroom
Between the growing demand for accessibility and the increase in the desire for seniors to maintain independence in their homes, Docking Drawer is proud to provide solutions to create a safer bathroom environment. If you are looking for inspiration to get started, please explore other customer projects or contact us for guidance on your next project.
1 Lam, K., Shi, Y., Boscardin, J., & Covinsky, K. E. (2021, May 1). Unmet need for equipment to help with bathing and toileting among older US adults. JAMA internal medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7985819/
2 Borra, F., & Cane, L. (2016, March 17). Daylight impacts on elderly people with visual impairments - the daylight site: Daylighting research, architecture, practice and Education. The Daylight Site | Daylighting research, architecture, practice and education. http://thedaylightsite.com/daylight-impacts-on-elderly-people-with-visual-impairments/