Gray hair, wrinkles and frailty are no longer inevitable aspects of growing older; medical science and a better understanding of health, nutrition and exercise mean more people are living healthy, active and more youthful lives. Likewise, aging in place no longer means sacrificing style for safety. It’s now possible to create a beautiful decor while accommodating your needs during your golden years.
“As the baby boomers age, manufacturers are paying more attention to creating products that work for all ages,” says Jean-Jacques L’Henaff, vice president of design for American Standard. “Consumers are both more discerning about design and style, and in need of products that are easier to use and more accessible. The focus has shifted to designing products that fit everyone’s needs elegantly and discreetly, without compromising style.”
The emergence of universal design is most evident in the bathroom. If you’ll be designing your new master suite any time soon, with the goal of staying in your home independently for years to come, keep in mind these important features:
Lighting – Bathroom lighting is multi-functional and multi-layered, serving family members of all ages and mobility levels. When creating a bathroom lighting plan to facilitate aging in place, it’s important to find the perfect balance between safety and aesthetics.
The American Optometric Association says older eyes need lighting that is uniform from one room to another, glare-free, and at a brighter level. Bathroom lighting should include a combination of overhead and task fixtures, such as dual row lights on either side of mirrors. Night lighting is essential and should be low level so your eyes need less time to adjust. Dimmer switches and illumination controls at the entrance to the room can help users achieve the light levels they need. It’s possible to find a wide variety of bathroom light fixtures that are beautifully designed while fulfilling these requirements.
Accessories – Grab bars are an essential element of bathroom safety for anyone with mobility and balance issues. Commonly, grab bars appear in the areas of a bathroom where fall risks are greatest, including in showers and tubs, and near toilets. However, traditional grab bars can look institutional and clash with a bathroom’s overall design.
Instead of settling for a look that doesn’t flatter your decor, versatile alternatives allow new custom homeowners to opt for safety accessories that incorporate beauty as well as function. For example, the American Standard Invisia Collection of bath and shower grab bar accessories are disguised as decorative flourishes on existing bathroom accessories such as the toilet paper holder, towel rack or wall-mounted soap dish. A sleek, polished metal ring encircles and accents a tub or shower faucet handle while also functioning as a sturdy grab bar. Two models of shower bench seats – corner and fold-down – provide a secure perch with sophisticated styling. All the Invisia products provide needed support in a style that is tasteful, modern and enhancing to your bathroom setting.
Fixtures – From higher toilets that make rising easier and higher sinks that require less bending, to low step-over shower surrounds and walk-in bathtubs, a wide range of bathroom fixtures facilitate safety and ease of use in the bathroom. More manufacturers are also paying attention to the aesthetic aspects of these very practical products, creating looks that mesh well with a range of interior design themes, from classic to transitional to modern.
As you’re selecting bathroom fixtures, look for product attributes that improve accessibility, like wider shower door openings, taller heights and lever controls that are easier to manipulate.
Flooring – Bathrooms are hotspots for fall risks, especially among older people with mobility or vision challenges. As you’re designing your bathroom, eliminate high-gloss, slippery flooring like ceramic tile, which can become even slicker when wet. Instead, look for low-glare, slip-resistant materials in matte hues that will be easier on the feet and eyes, such as rubber or textured vinyl.
“The idea of aging in place is more realistic than ever before,” L’Henaff says. “Now, it’s also possible to do it gracefully, with plenty of decorator-friendly bathroom options that are as secure and practical as they are attractive.”