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Bathroom Remodeling for Aging in Place

by Guest on Dec 14, 2012

The Pew Research Center has documented that close to 10,000 baby boomers will be turning 65 every day for the next 18 years (beginning in 2011).  By 2030, almost 20% of the population in the United States will be of retirement age, which presents some unique and significant challenges for this segment of the population.

As older adults and seniors reach retirement age, many face health and mobility issues that require alterations to their lifestyle and living environment.  Unlike previous generations, Baby boomers have not been heading off to retirement areas like Arizona and Florida, but are instead electing to stay where they are.

Because of this shift in preferences, many older home owners prefer to “age in place” and make adjustments to their home, instead of moving. 

Some people wish to stay in their homes to save money on living expenses; retirement communities or senior living centers can be prohibitively expensive, running thousands per month just for the living accommodations, without the any personal assistance.  In fact, a recent poll from The Consumer Federation showed affordable housing as the second most important issue to the boomers, just behind quality health care.

For those who elect to stay in their homes as opposed to moving in their later years, bathroom remodels are becoming an ever increasing focus for livability.

For bathrooms, there is a general focus on reducing variances in height, such as eliminating steps or stairs, leveling uneven in floor heights, replacing thresholds that have too large of a profile and removal of area rugs or other tripping hazards from the floor. 

Light switches and outlets are often moved to lower positions on the walls to allow residence to easily reach in the event a wheel chair is part of their life later down the road. 

Storage areas are also adjusted to allow for easier access. Doors are often replaced with drawers and the waist high area becomes the location for the most essential and most frequently accessed items in the bathroom (and kitchen too).  Doorways are sometimes widened to allow for the use or potential use of walkers or wheel chairs.

The bathroom tub is typically replaced with a walk in tub or walk in shower to reduce the tripping and slipping hazard which can be common accidents for this age group.  In both cases, the use of a thermostatically controlled faucet or shower is essential for ease of use and safety.

A thermostatic controlled device is a valve or water flow device with a built in tempering unit  The unit typically utilizes a wax ring that expands to reduce hot water flow the water temperature rises but contracts when water temperature decreases.  This unit can be set at a temperature of your choosing (typically under 103 degrees Fahrenheit).  The set temperate will not deviate from the setting within 1 degree while in use which prevents scalding in the event of incorrectly adjusting the water flow and not being able to react and adjust the temperature if mobility is an issue.  This also makes it easier for seniors since the shower is simply turned on with a water control lever and you need not worry about adjusting the temperature.

Thermostatic shower units come in a variety of styles and finish options to match the preferences of the home owner but should be considered an integral element of a bathroom remodel and livable bathroom at the later stages in life. 

Many states along the eastern seaboard actually require a thermostatic (AKA tempering valve, pressure balancing device) be used during new construction or in home renovation but is optional in most other states.

Living at home has many advantages and with a little adjusting and some planned changes to your home, can be quite comfortable and satisfying.

Brad Thomas

Classic Clawfoot Tubs

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