Aging In Place: Choosing The Right Bath And Shower


Photo: Nick Karvounis

One in every four Americans over 65 experience a fall each year. This results in over 27,000 deaths each year. The most cited place of injury? The bathroom. As our loved ones get older, naturally we want to provide the best support for them including at home. If you live with a senior or are a senior, the design of your home is very important as you enter your golden years. One of the rooms that instantly spring to mind is the bathroom. It is one of the most used rooms in the home. It is also one the most likely sites of hazards for older people. If you are thinking of changing your bathroom, chances are you are thinking of refreshing your bathtub or shower.

When considering the design of the bathroom for seniors, two factors should always be integrated: Safety and efficiency. This is especially applicable to one of the main focal points in the bathroom, your shower or bath. One of the first steps in tackling the issue is considering the factors that would influence the choice of bath or shower when designing your bathroom. Here are some great tips to keep in mind when choosing a bath or shower aimed at seniors.

Consider support additions

Eighty percent of seniors 65 and over that sustain a fall or slip cite the bathroom as the location of the injury. The most important consideration when choosing a bath and shower should be their safety. With this in mind, think about the support provided when looking at the available models. There is an increasing number of bath or shower models being manufactured today aimed specifically at the older population. Additional equipment such as shower rails and grab bars now come as standard components of a model. These support mechanisms should not only be installed but paced at an easy to reach angle to aid in the comfort of its user and efficiency of its purpose.  If not included, consider the design of your chosen model and how easily you can incorporate these add-ons once installed. Finally, be sure to inquire about the maximum weight bearing capacity of all support equipment you will be including in your bathroom including grab rails and base trays for plastic showers.

Consider mobility needs

Many of our older loved ones find that their stability and mobility decline as they age. Keep this in mind when choosing a bath or shower and deciding on the model. For people with mobility issues, a walk-in shower is a go-to option. Traditionally designed showers and bathtubs can provide a daily challenge for the elderly. Stepping up into the bath or shower can prove particularly hazardous for those with declining mobility. In this case, consider installing a barrier-free shower. There is an increasing number of bath/shower options produced today in a bid to address the need for more mobility friendly products to aid seniors’ movement.

If you are considering a bath or over the bath shower, the user should be able to comfortably climb over the tub when getting in and out. For the over the bath shower, they should also be able to remain standing comfortably throughout their shower. If unable to do this, look into having a bath seat installed across the top of the bathtub for use when showering.

Consider the individual case

When we suggest considering the individual case, we are referring to your specific site and situation. This is where you would consider factors such as space available including the length and width of the bath along with the positioning of the bath and shower. Corner baths or showers can be tricky since often only a limited amount of support equipment can be used efficiently in this position. If you are looking for a corner bath or overhead shower, consider installing a bath and shower board to provide the additional support getting in and out afterward.

Additionally, you should consider the physical abilities of your loved ones. Certain conditions can present several mobility issues in older people. Seniors with joint pain and other conditions may find standing or stepping into the bath an issue while for some their reach overhead may be affected. Placements in the bathroom are an essential part of choosing the right bath or shower. You want the equipment in the bath to be placed at reachable convenience points. For baths, this includes grab bars on the sides to help get in and out. For showers, this include adjustable shower head heights and of course, easily accessible water temperature and control taps. Several users in a study by Abir Mullick cited inadequate reach and adjusting water temperature as a few particularly troublesome areas for them. Placement of the bathroom support equipment should also align with the individual’s specific needs. For instance, someone with a weaker left side grip would find a grab bar installed on the left side of the shower particularly impractical.

Getting older comes with its fair share of challenges and changes. One of those challenges is an increased possibility of injury from falls and slips in the bathroom. However, it does not have to become a reality for you. The answer lies in being proactive and eliminating the accidents waiting to happen before they actually do. These tips are just a few to get you started on choosing a safer and more accessible bath and shower.

Mila Hose (321 Posts)

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