Friday, October 28, 2011

9 Less Common Bathroom Modifications for Seniors

There are many changes you can make to a bathroom to make it more accessible for seniors, but today I’m going off the beaten track to talk about cool modifications you just don’t hear about every day.

1. Slide through Sliding Doors
If a senior has mobility issues and is using a power chair or wheelchair, access through doors can be tricky.  The wider the door opening, the easier it is.  One way to achieve more space is to install a sliding, or pocket, door. 

2. Jack Up the Connections
Most people don’t have a telephone in their bathroom.  And if a senior has a cell phone, they often don’t carry it with them wherever they go.  But what if Aunt Ethel slips and falls?  Without help she could be in trouble.  Install a telephone jack and make sure she’s connected.

3. Rollout the Drawers

When the knees and hips get creaky, it’s a challenge to bend over and to search through the dark corners of a cavernous vanity to find roll of toilet paper. Make it easier by installing rollout or pullout storage shelves. 

4. Everyday Essentials at Eye Level

Medicine cabinets are so practical for seniors – they can keep all their medications, toothpaste, combs, brushes, make up, razors and shaving cream right at their finger tips.  And when it’s at eye level, it’s easy to find.  

5. Customized Counters
There’s no rule that says all counters and vanities have to be the same height.  If two people share a bathroom, customize the vanity heights to their needs.  If Aunt Ethel is in her wheel chair and wants a lower height counter, that’s just what she should have.  It doesn’t mean Uncle Ernie has to change his routine too.

6.  Power Up the Sink

If there isn’t room for everyone to have their own sink, and Ethel and Ernie just can’t agree on the height, there’s still a solution—the adjustable height sink.  You can adjust these sinks to a range of heights suitable for everyone.

7. Backing up the Pipes (in a good way)
Once you got the vanity counter at the right height for Ethel, you don’t want anything to interfere with her comfort – no obtrusive pipes eating up valuable space.  So install the pipes toward the back rather than the middle.  It can also provide more storage space.

8. Faucets on the Side

The faucet on the side of the bathroom sink is not only easier to reach, it’s also quite stylish. 

9. Bathe Under a Heat Lamp
So you’ve considered installing a walk in tub for Ernie and Ethel.  One concern is whether they will get cold waiting for the water to drain.  Not if you also install a heat lamp.  It’ll keep them warm just like the August sun on the beach after a swim.

I hope I gave you some new ideas for keeping seniors safe and happy in the bathroom. 
How about you?  Any innovative ideas about bathroom remodeling for seniors to share with us?  Comment below and, if you like, share a link to your site.

Bye for now …..George Flowers.

P.S. If you live in Southern New Jersey, the Philadelphia, PA area or Delaware and would like help assessing the safety of your home or the home of a senior you care for, please sign up for a free in-home consultation.  I’d love to meet you and help you out.  Call 877-426-8466 and ask for me.


  1. In reference to #2 - Until phones become waterproof, or, the client doesn't have to drag themselves to the handheld, which can cause complications if they happen hurt themselves getting to the unit (if they can reach it pulling it into the stall where they are laying (under the water) shorts the phone anyway - Scenario rendered useless. Best case = 30% more time in your facility, due to complications. Worst case (No; not death) = Full time in your facility from complications.

    The real answer is Life Alert -
    100% waterproof - And pressing a button give you options, even when the client can't speak of think of them on their own.
    Ron Tippitt, Independent Case Manager 1-800-335-4415 extension 4638,
    or 1-310-663-2310

    Ron Tippitt

  2. Some great suggestions, George. However, I would also advise against the phone in the bathroom and recommend a personal emergency response system, which can and should remain on the person's body at all times. If Aunt Ethel slips in the shower or on the floor, and the phone is on the counter or the wall, it's useless. I always stress to clients the importance of wearing the PERS in the shower and to bed.
    Sue Coyle, COTA, BA, CMC

  3. Thanks Sue and Ron -- you're right. An alert is probably the ideal solution to the problem. That's something that all seniors should have if they're living alone. George.

  4. I also suggest installing a better source of light, it is essential for clear vision.

  5. For many elderly, disabled or obese the challenge of getting clean after using the toilet is difficult and can lead to the embarrassment of being dirty or having to have assistance from others. This is why having an outlet (GFI, of course) installed beside every toilet is becoming a common Universal Design feature. This allows for the installation of a bidet type seat or Washlet. I am surprised that I don't see this mentioned among your list of recommended features for bathrooms for those wanting to age in place.

  6. I totally agree with you about the need many elderly people have for a bidet type seat or Washlet. Please take a look at two other blog posts that mention these products. "Maintaining Dignity In Seniors: Keeping Private Moments Private," and "Four Practical and Fun Holiday Gifts for Seniors."