As the baby boomers are all reaching retirement age, many are now planning on remaining in their own home, or what we refer it to as “aging in place”. However, as the body ages, we no longer have the strength and flexibility we once did, and accommodations must be made. Add to that, medical issues and it becomes clear that aging in place means changes to the house, and more specifically the plumbing.
There have been many modifications done to the current plumbing fixtures to accommodate the elderly and make it easy for them to remain in their homes if they are able. These fixtures are a bit different than the traditional handicap accessible fixtures in that they are designed for those needing assistance, and not necessarily handicapped. While many of the assisted living plumbing designs can also be used for aging in place, the plumbing fixtures are made easier to use by those less mobile or having lost some body strength.
Changes in the Bathroom
The bathroom can present one of the biggest challenges for the elderly and mobility becomes an issue.
One of the first fixtures that becomes difficult to use is the bathtub, due to stepping over the edge or climbing out after a bath or shower. The bathtub can be replaced with a shower, and most will fit over the existing bathtub footprint.
A shower for the elderly should include three features not normally installed in a typical shower; a seat, a hand-held shower head, and a thermostatic mixing valve to keep the water temperature consistent. Another great feature for aging in place are grab bars. If you need one, it’s nice to have!
One of the most difficult fixtures to use as mobility changes is the toilet. The bending down and getting up after use can become problematic. To make the transition a little easier, plumbing manufacturers have increased the height of some toilets 2 to 4 inches higher than the standard bowl height. Having the seat at a higher level makes lowering and raising much easier.
Another feature that has seen a rise in popularity for aging in place are bidet toilets. These toilets can be installed in place of your existing toilet, with some minor modifications done to the plumbing to run an additional hot water line to the toilet bowl. Or you can also buy a bidet toilet seat with electrical modification that doesn’t require a hot water supply. These are extremely handy for people with limited mobility, and they are more hygienic than using toilet paper alone. Some cool features of bidet toilets now include night lights, wall remotes, and various water temperatures and water patterns.
Another important feature next to the toilet are grab bars. The preferred grab bar for those aging in place is the swing-down, swing-up grab bar. This style of grab bar is available both wall mounted and floor mounted. When needed, the grab bar easily swings down to assist in the transfer to the toilet, and when done, the grab bar swings up out of the way.
It’s never an easy decision to make changes to your existing plumbing, but it’s better to prepare for the future while you’re still mobile. Then you can enjoy your retirement with one less thing to stress about.
If you have any questions regarding changing your plumbing for someone that is thinking about aging in place, please call Gold Seal Plumbing. A free quote never hurt anyone!