Bathroom remodeling tips for the elderly

Installing a walk-in shower in the bathroom can reduce the amount of falls and increase overall safety.

Installing a walk-in shower in the bathroom can reduce the amount of falls and increase overall safety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injuries that occur in the bathroom are more frequent in older populations. Whether you're getting older yourself, want to plan ahead or are moving a parent or in-law into your home, there are several bathroom remodeling steps you can take to make the space more accomodating to seniors.

Some are simple fixes you can do yourself, while others will likely require the services of a handyman or contractor. All of them depend on the level of mobility the person using the bathroom will have.

Bathroom improvements you can do yourself

• Install grab bars. Installing grab bars in the shower and around the toilet can help older people stay steady on their feet. Wall bars should be installed parallel to the ground.

• Improve lighting. As vision tends to decrease with age, it's important to make sure the bathroom is well lit. This might be as simple as replacing bulbs or swapping out existing light fixtures.

• Change door handles and knobs. Older hands may have a hard time grasping small components, so make sure the bathroom door handle and the knobs on any of the cabinets and sinks are large and easy to use. You may also want to replace the faucets in the shower if they stick or are difficult to turn. When replacing light fixtures, make sure they work with a wall switch and don't have small knobs that need to be twisted.

• Install a nonslip mat in the shower. Slippery surfaces are dangerous enough for the young, but they can be downright deadly for the elderly. Make sure your tub or shower has a nonslip mat on the floor.

• Consider a transfer chair. The side of a tub will get harder to climb over as legs get weaker with age. One solution is to cut a gap in the side of the tub. Another option is to buy a transfer chair. It allows a person to sit outside the tub and then scoot over and into the shower area.

Bathroom improvements that require a contractor

• Widen the doorway and remove thresholds. If they're not already wide enough, doors should be widened 32 to 36 inches. This facilitates wheelchair, scooter and walker access. Another option is to remove the threshold and replace it with a walk-in shower.

• Raise or replace the sink. If the person using the bathroom will be in a wheelchair, the sink should be raised to a height of 30 to 34 inches and the bottom of the sink should be open and wide enough to allow the chair to fit. Otherwise, a sink could be raised to a height of 40 inches to help someone who has trouble bending over.

• Install nonslip flooring. Slick surfaces and the elderly do not mix, so if you have glossy tile or marble on your bathroom floor, you might want to replace it with nonslip tile.

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Handymen say a small threshold ramp could cost as little as $100. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Robert B., Mansfield, Texas)

Need to make your home handicap accessible? Highly rated service providers break down the cost to install grab bars, ramps, walk-in showers and more.Retrofitting your home to make it handicap accessible? We break down the cost to install grab bars, ramps, walk-in showers and to help you age in place.


Be sure to seek out a specialist for home modifications for independent living. Mortar showers can be installed with NO lip or step over at all. Wall hung toilets to get the exact seat height you want are readily available. If you think the bathroom may need to accommodate wheelchair use in the future, plan for it now!

Consider a temperature-limiting shower/bath control. You can set it to only allow a certain maximum flow of hot water into the mix, so as to prevent accidental scalding. You can't accidentally push it over into "all hot" by bumping it, and you can set it for your preferred temperature, so that you just turn the handle all the way on, without having to tinker with the handle to get the warmth you want. You need to have a plumber install it (unless you are skilled yourself) but once installed, it's easy to make adjustments.

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