Boston plumber offers advice for aging in place
Joseph Wood, owner of Boston Standard Plumbing
For some Americans, retirement planning is focused on setting aside enough money to ensure a comfortable standard of living. Little thought may be given to where retirees will live, or what modifications may make living at home possible for a longer period of time.
Enter the concept of aging in place. Aging in place enables seniors without significant health concerns to remain in their own homes for longer periods of time, by accommodating their changing physical needs. In some cases, this may mean making a home more accessible to wheelchairs, walkers and other balance aids; widening doorways; installing safety equipment and making changes in the kitchen and bathroom to ensure accessibility and safety.
Because the bathroom is such a high-use area in a home, and because it can be the source of many accidents and inadvertent injuries, home accessibility consultants may recommend some changes to the bathroom to promote the concept of aging in place.
To age in place successfully, seniors may need help getting in and out of the bathtub or shower safely. They may also need minor modifications to the hot- and cold-water faucets to maintain safe water temperatures throughout the home, and adjustments to the home's sinks and toilets to maintain a safe, comfortable living environment.
One often-recommended modification is the installation of a comfort-height toilet. Comfort-height toilets are slightly higher than a standard toilet, and allow a person to sit and return to a standing position or transfer to a wheelchair or other mobility device more easily. The comfort-height toilet operates in the same way a standard toilet does and is comparably priced to a high-quality standard fixture.
Several manufacturers make comfort-height toilets that also offer quiet-flush and water-saving features, the latter of which can help recover the cost of the toilet in just a few years. Additionally, dual-flush (water-saving) toilets often have a push-button flush mechanism, which may be easier to operate for someone with arthritis or other joint-strength impairments.
Another modification that may be of use in an aging-in-place plan is a temperature-activated flow reducer, which can provide protection from scalding in a two-handled shower system, often found in older homes. The flow reducer cuts the flow of hot water to about a quarter gallon per minute if the water temperature exceeds 115 degrees. This gives the bather time to re-adjust the water flow without either getting burned or losing the hot water altogether. A temperature-activated flow reducer sits inline with the showerhead and requires no special tools to install.
Hand-held shower heads can also allow seniors to shower while in a seated position. This can help prevent injuries from falls in the shower. Handheld shower attachments can be installed in a few minutes, and often require no tools. Wall-mounted sinks with special, easy-to-turn lever-style faucet handles can provide better accessibility for seniors and those with limited mobility or who use a wheelchair. Sinks that protrude beyond the edge of the sink base — leaving ample room underneath the fixture — are especially helpful in aging-in-place applications.
Bathtubs can also be modified for use in aging-in-place plans. Recessed tubs, which rest close to the floor line, allow for easier entry and exit without sacrificing the depth of the fixture. Another option for seniors is a "walk-in" shower, which has no barriers to entry or exit.
Many older homes can be modified to support successful aging-in-place plans. Simple modifications, especially in the bathroom, can help ensure that seniors can enjoy the comforts of home and keep their housing costs manageable well into retirement.
Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating was incorporated in 2008. Starting with one service truck, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating now operates with four trucks and seven employees. Joe Wood, owner of Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating has been a plumbing, heating and cooling professional for ten years.
As of July 22, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check AngiesList.com for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.