Aging in Place: How to Design Safe and Accessible Bathroom?



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Denver residents are fighting for their right to have a safe and accessible bathroom. A recent study showed that almost 60% of adults aged 65 and older falls each year.

Many of these falls usually occur in the bathroom, which is why it’s important to make these spaces as safe and accessible as possible.

When people think about accessible bathrooms, they often think of wheelchair ramps and walk-in tubs. But for older adults who simply want to remain in their homes as they age, their bathrooms must be designed with safety and usability in mind.

The following tips will help you design a bathroom space that is safe and accessible.

Light Your Bathroom Well

It is always important for you to have sufficient lighting in the bathroom, especially as we age. Poor lighting can cause falls and other injuries. Bathrooms should be well lit, with task lighting over the sink and shower and general lighting in the rest of the room.

Make sure it has bright lighting, particularly in the shower and near the sink. Older adults often have trouble seeing in the bathroom when they get up at night to head to the washroom or take a shower. If you add motion lights, it will make your home safer for all members of your family, not just older members.

keep bathroom lighting
Light up the bathroom!

Make Sure Your Bathroom is Easy to Read

Make sure that your bathroom’s text labels are big, bold, and easy to read. Remember that the amount of light in your home diminishes with age, so keep things simple regarding signs in this space.

Eliminate tripping hazards near the door, toilet, and tub or shower. A rubber anti-slip bathmat is a good idea for having hard bathroom tiles.

news reading in bathroom

Use Placement to Enhance Visibility

If you are designing a new bathroom, consider how the placement of the fixtures can enhance visibility for older adults. For example, put the hand held shower head on a long hose so that it can be utilized from either a seated or standing position.

Make sure your toilet isn’t obstructed by the vanity, and make sure there is enough space for someone to walk in front of and beside the toilet. Make sure you have good lighting over the toilet as well.

Include Emergency Buttons

Install emergency buttons near all the entry points of the bathroom. These should be installed near the toilet, bathtub, and shower. They can be used to summon help if an older adult becomes stuck or lost in their home.

bathroom emergency button

Don’t Forget About Safety.

Safety is one crucial element that you must think about before designing a bathroom for aging individuals. Some things to keep in mind are slip-resistant flooring, shower seats or bars that are easy to reach and use, toilet grab bars that are adjustable for height, a low-mounted toilet paper dispenser, so it’s easy to access from both sitting and standing positions, a handheld showerhead on a long hose so the person can control where they want the water directed while seated or standing and adequate lighting.

And finally…

If you are considering remodeling your bathroom, think about all the ways that it can be made more accessible to someone with limited mobility. Keep in mind that what may help one person could create another hazard for someone else, so it’s important to get input from everyone who will use the space.

The bathroom is often the smallest room in the home, and people get creative to make it more accessible. For example, you can install a walk-in tub or build a shower bench (ensure that there is enough room for someone to move around). If possible, avoid installing wall-mounted toilet paper holders because they are difficult for people who have trouble bending.

accessible bath remodeling near me

Less Is More

A minimalist design is often ideal when it comes to bathroom design for aging in place. This type of design is accessible and safe, as it features a smaller number of fixtures and less clutter. There is less chance of someone slipping or becoming confused about where they are in a minimalist bathroom.

With a much smaller number of fixtures, there is also less risk of something falling into the toilet or tub. Additionally, this type of bathroom design is much easier to keep clean and has fewer opportunities for mildew to grow.

This design utilizes mostly white space with very few items to create an aesthetically pleasing color palette. The wall tile features a matte look to ensure that it is slip-resistant, whereas the shower mat features a soft texture to ensure that any elderly users are protected from injury.

The colors in this type of design are neutral, with darks being used mostly for accents. The flooring is made of tile to maintain safety while ensuring ease of cleaning and minimal mildew growth. The toilet is located in front of the shower, one of the most common bathroom designs, because it functions well for many different users.

The countertops should be minimal with a unique glass vessel sink to compliment the rest of the modern design. There should be no towel racks or bars to ensure safety and simplicity, but there should be at least two hanging shelves to hold items, one being used for shower products and the other for toiletries. The only decorative elements should also be minimalist but large enough to be seen from most bathroom areas.

The lighting in a minimalist design is perfect, as there are usually multiple lights on each side of the mirrors that can all be turned on independently of each other.

minimal bathroom design

Accent Features

When designing a bathroom for the elderly, choosing an accent piece that is easily distinguishable and stands out is essential. This will help to create a look that is both safe and accessible-friendly.

Great examples of accent pieces include bright colors, bold patterns, and unique textures. Accent pieces that are also durable and practical tend to be the most beneficial in a bathroom for aging in place.

Bright Makes Right

If you’re designing a bathroom with aging in mind, it’s essential to keep the layout open and bright. Avoid using dark colors or patterns on walls or flooring, as this can make the room feel smaller and harder to navigate.

bright bathroom design

Wide Doorway

One of the best ways to guarantee ease of access and safety is by having a particularly wide doorway. If you need to make your bathroom wheelchair accessible, make sure that there is a straight run from the door to the bath or shower. Also, ensure that the doorway has no obstructions like a sizeable wooden threshold in its path.

Also, keep the shower enclosure clear of any items that could fall into the bathtub and cause injury. In order to maintain simplicity, avoid installing glass or fogged-up doors as they tend to be difficult for people with limited sight.

Make sure that there is proper room for someone who uses a wheelchair to turn around in the bathroom, as well as ample space between countertops and the wall.

wide door open bathroom

Create Friction!

Many people think that it can’t be dangerous because a bathroom is small, but this isn’t the case. In fact, the bathroom can be one of the most hazardous rooms in the house for elderly and disabled individuals.

One of the main causes for this is that polished surfaces, such as tile or marble, can be very slippery when wet. This increases the chance of an individual slipping and injuring themselves.

A few things can be done to help make a bathroom safer for elderly and disabled individuals. One is to install non-slip mats in the shower and on the floors. These can help to provide traction and keep individuals from slipping.

Another thing that can be done is to use textured paint or wallpaper on the walls. This not only provides a soft surface for individuals to grip as they move around, but it can also help with creating a more visually appealing room.

The most important thing that should be done in order to maintain safety is minimizing the use of polished surfaces and installing slip-resistant flooring materials. This includes getting rid of any raised thresholds or wooden floors.

fiction bathroom showroom

Windows and Doors

When designing a bathroom for aging in place, take care to make sure that windows and doors are easy to open and closed by users of all abilities.

Since the elderly often have limited strength, it’s crucial that you use levers instead of knobs whenever possible. Also, avoid using any windows or doors that require a tight grip or that open inwards, as this may cause the individual to slip back.

Fixtures and Faucets

One of the best things to do to enhance safety and accessibility is installing easy-to-use showerheads, towel bars, faucets, and other fixtures.

When shopping for these items, look for universal design features such as handles, buttons, and levers. Also, avoid using any type of hardware that requires twisting or extra force to operate.

Grab Bars

Another great safety feature is installing grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower/tub. If you’re live in an older home or one that wasn’t designed for aging in place, it may be necessary to install new grab bars.

These can help to make the bathroom safer and more accessible for people of all abilities.

bathroom grab bars installation


You can create an easy-to-use door handle for doorknobs by doing just a few small modifications. For instance, if you’re replacing old doorknobs with new ones, be sure that they are level or slightly recessed into their holes. This makes them easier to grip.

You can also take away the lever that opens or closes the door but still provide a way for individuals to open and close the door quickly. To do this, replace the square knob with one that has a rounded end, like an old-fashioned milk bottle lid. By doing this, you’re creating a larger surface area for people to grip onto.

If you don’t want to replace the doorknobs, you can still make them easier to use by adding a lever handle. These can be found in any decent hardware stores and are usually very easy to install.

Hands-Free Door Opener

A hands-free foot door opener is a device that you put your foot on to open a door. Found in many public restrooms, this type of device has become popular because it makes it easy to open a door without having to use your hands. Although convenient, this type of device poses certain safety risks.

People with balance problems or disabilities like arthritis can find it difficult to stand on these foot door openers for too long without feeling faint. However, if the bathroom has handheld bars or other safety devices installed, you will be able to capitalize on this innovative new door. Additionally, if a foot door opener is the only way to gain access to a bathroom, ensure that it is placed in front of a handrail.

hadn free door open

Shower and Bathtub Relaxation

Most bathroom-related accidents occur in the bathtub or the shower cubicle. This is because these are the locations where people are most likely to slip and fall. There are a few tasks that you might want to undertake to make your bathroom safer for aging in place.

One of the most important chores is to install a non-slip surface in the bathtub and the shower. You can do this by using a textured adhesive tape or a non-slip mat. Another thing you can do is to install grab bars in these locations. This will help you to keep your balance while you are wet.

Bath Lift

A bath lift is a device that helps elderly people get in and out of the bathtub. It has a platform that sits on the edge of the tub and a motorized lift that raises and lowers the platform. This allows elderly people to safely and efficiently get in and out of the tub.

There are different types of bath lifts. All have a platform that elevates to waist- or chest-high, but then there are differences in how the person stands on the platform and how it operates. Use this information to work with your health care provider to select the right type for you or your loved one.

A few points you should consider when you’re choosing a bath lift include:

  • How much weight can the lift hold?
  • Is it easy to get in and out of the tub from the platform?
  • What is the maximum height between floor and platform?
  • Will it work with your existing tub, or will you need to replace it in order to install a new one?

Shower Seat

A shower seat is a bench that is typically installed in a shower to provide a comfortable place for a person to sit while they are taking a shower. This can be very helpful for elderly people, as it can make it easier for them to get in and out of their shower.

Additionally, it can help them stay safe while showering by providing a place to hold onto while they are wet. If you can, it’s a good idea to install a shower seat with arms. This will allow the person sitting on the bench to lean forward and potentially slip out of the way if they happen to fall.

Another option is a “walk-in” shower with built-in benches and no doors. These varities of showers are becoming increasingly popular for people looking to make their bathrooms as accessible as possible.

shower seat accessories

Toilet Safety Frame

Toilet safety frames help elderly people sit down on the toilet and stand back up again. This device has a wide, stable base that fits around the side of the commode. The user can gently lean on this frame while sitting or standing, which reduces strain on their legs and makes them feel more secure.

Ask The Experts

Before making any changes to your bathroom, make sure that you consult with an expert who has experience creating safe and accessible spaces for elderly individuals. This can help you avoid costly mistakes that could put the individual at risk of getting hurt or getting stuck.

Above all else, remember that having a bathroom that’s accessible to aging individuals will keep you independent and safe, no matter what your age is.

When it comes to designing a bathroom for aging in place, there are many things to consider. However, the key is simplicity and function without too much formality. If you follow all of these tips, you should be able to create an accessible and aesthetically pleasing design.

After reading this article, you should hopefully better understand how to design your bathroom for aging in place. In order to make sure that the space is safe and accessible, there are some considerations you need to factor in when choosing fixtures, such as grab bars or raised toilet seats.

You may also want to think about installing a roll-in shower with no threshold instead of a tub/shower combo which can be hard on people who use wheelchairs. If anyone has any questions about this topic, feel free to let us know!

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Kristen Lawson
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Our bathrooms were dated back to the 1980's and we needed them redone badly. Johnny did an excellent job meeting our needs and making sure we got everything we wanted in the bathrooms. In the end the bathrooms were exactly what we wanted.
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