Safe Bathroom Design for Seniors With Limited Mobility

Safe bathroom design for seniors

The bathroom's a dangerous place. If you're over the age of 65, you have a 30% chance of experience a fall this year. According to a report from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a full 80% of those falls will occur in the bathroom!

While most of us are pretty aware that there's a significant risk of slipping when getting in and out of the shower, those over 85 will experience over half of their falls on or around the toilet.

As we age, and our mobility, strength, balance and flexibility decreases, our risk of falling increases. The good news is, we can change the design of our bathrooms to make it a much safer experience.

The Dangerous of Bathroom!

Understanding where we get injured in the bathroom and why, will help us design a safer bathroom.

  • The majority of accidents that take place in the bathroom are a result of falling
  • In order of frequency, one study revealed that most falls were caused by:
    • Bathing or showering (excluding slipping)
    • Slipping
    • Standing up from or sitting down on the toilet
    • Exiting the bathtub or shower
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Getting into the bathtub or shower
  • The injury rate was 72% higher for woman than for men
  • 31% injuries occurred to the head, 20% to the lower torso and 18% to the upper torso

Designing a Safe Bathroom for Older Adults

There are some simple steps you can take to make your bathroom a safer environment, minimizing your risk of injury.

1. Grab Bars: Add grab bars in the bathtub and next to all your toilets. Grab bars will help you pull yourself up from the tub, and lower yourself down into the tub, with a firm grip. Instead of putting your hand down on a wet or uneven surface, to support or pull your body weight, grab bars will be placed in an ideal location to offer maximum support and balance.

You may also want to install a grab bar to help you get into and out of the tub. So while your stepping over the tubs lip, you can stabilize yourself with the grab bar, and not pull on the shower curtain or rely on a non-grippable, slippery wall for support.

Same goes for the toilet. As our legs weaken, getting up and down from a squatting position without assistance can become very difficult. Grab bars will offer help you add arm strength to help yourself up and down from the toilet as well as a third limb for additional balance and stabilization.

2. Non Slip Mats: Add non-slip mats both in and in-front of the bath tub. This will help prevent slipping while you're at your most vulnerable - on one leg.

3. Walk-in Bathtub: Although a bigger investment, walk-in tubs let you walk in to the bathtub without having to step over a lip. You simply open the door and walk into and out of the tub. They also come with built in seats, removing the risk of sitting down and getting up from a standard tub. Lastly, walk-in tubs come with built-in grab bars and non-slip flooring, making a much safer bathing experience from top to bottom.

4. Elevated Toilets: The height of a standard toilet is 15 inches from floor to seat. The ADA (American with Disabilities Act) recommends a height of between 17 to 19 inches. The additional few inches makes it easier for many to sit down and get up from the toilet, because it requires less leg strength to raise and lower your body weight onto a higher position.

5. Lighting: Make sure you have good lighting throughout your bathroom. Often times showers may be poorly lit, which can make it difficult as our eyesight deteriorates, especially when we bath or shower without our glasses.