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Tips for age-friendly bathrooms

Posted at 5:12pm Tuesday 30 Jun, 2020 | By Dave Flaherty, owner FlowFix Plumbing

Making a bathroom safer and more comfortable to use for your parents or other relatives (or even yourself) as they age requires thinking about upgrading the fixtures and fittings.

There are many options specifically designed with older people in mind. Plumbing products designed to improve access or mobility for people have to meet specific building code requirements.

Put up that toilet seat
One of the major catalysts for bathroom falls is getting up from toilet seats that are low enough to be inconvenient for an older person. So installing ‘comfort height toilets' is a great place to start. Standard toilets range from 390mm-420mm off the ground, whereas ‘comfort height' or ‘care' height is considered 430-460mm from the floor. This extra height can also mean that guests with restricted movement can safely use the bathroom. As an added feature, these toilets can have arm rests with an integrated nurse call button.

Grab some new rails
For those who need some extra help moving around the bathroom, both towel and shower rails can provide the duel function of serving as grab rails as well. This can be achieved simply by changing the rail rods to a more grip-friendly material and, in some cases, adding extra wall framing for support.

Turning to tapware
When it comes to bathroom tapware, many people make the mistake of turning the tap to hot instead of cold or vice versa. For people with more sensitive skin, impaired sight, or a degenerative brain condition such as dementia, this can become a real obstacle and with this in mind, you can add an extra safety measure in your bathroom by changing your tapware. Options include extended levers, larger, easy-to-recognise temperature indicators, antiscald technology, and half or quarter-turn features for ease of operation that make using them smoother and safer. Tapware that meets ‘care' requirements will have controls at 50-50mm clearance of any obstruction and  have a lever or capstan specifically for people with limited hand function – for example because of arthritis.

More power in the shower
As mentioned above, doubling up your shower rail as a grab rail is an easy way to alter your aging parents' bathroom. Another simple option could be adding a seating surface for those who tire of standing up in the shower – this also lowers the risk of falling. If your budget is a little higher and you're especially concerned about your loved ones tripping in the bathroom, consider replacing their shower completely with a level entry design. This is a much bigger time and financial commitment, but it's the ultimate option when it comes to lowering shower related risk.

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