The Aging-in-Place Bathroom – Consumer Reports


 M ost people want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Trouble is, their homes may not be aging as well as they are. Take the bathroom. Because of its hard and slippery surfaces, almost 235,000 people visit the emergency room each year with injuries suffered while bathing, showering, or using the facilities. Despite that, many homeowners resist even small changes that would make the room safer because they fear their beautiful bathroom will end up looking institutional. (Check out these 5 steps to a safer bathroom.)

But that’s now changing. The very things that make your bathroom safer and easier to navigate—large, walk-in showers; higher toilets; natural lighting—are also some of the latest design trends. It’s like hiding vegetables in the meal of a finicky eater. You can conceal safety upgrades with sleek design, clever innovations­—and a few euphemisms.

“Grab bars were a real deal breaker,” says Diana Schrage, an interior designer at Kohler. Now that grab bar is being called a “shower rail.” Higher-seated toilets are “comfort height.” And easy-to-use lever handles and handheld showers are “ergonomic.”

That type of adaptable design has come to be known as “aging in place,” but some remodeling pros prefer the more friendly “visitability,” which means making your home welcoming to people of all ages and abilities.

Unlike the access features for public spaces required by the Americans with Disabilities Act for the past 25 years, aging-in-place updates are strictly residential and don’t need to follow the stringent rules put in place by the ADA, so your bathroom can be functional without looking like a hospital. “The whole idea is safety, access, comfort, and convenience,” says Steve Hoffacker, a specialist in aging-in-place design.

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