North American Baby Boomers are booming their way directly into the aging population. More people will be over the age of 55 than ever before. Rather than looking for retirement homes or long-term care facilities, many of these Boomers are looking for ways to modify their existing homes as they face physical challenges unique to the aging population.
Someone struggling with inflexible joints, surgeries, declining eyesight and general physical weakness associated with the normal aging process often finds the bathroom…in particular the bath tub/shower area…to be a source of worry. The most common concerns we hear are centered on safety and accessibility. Clients are concerned with being able to access the tub safely to take a bath. How will they get in and out of the tub? What if it’s slippery and they fall? What if I need to sit to bathe?
A variety of products are available that convert an existing bathroom into a safe and beautiful part of the home without breaking the budget or requiring an expensive move to a new home.
Walk-In Bath Tubs
Walk-in tubs are a wonderful choice for people who do not want to give up the option of soaking in the tub. Easily accessible through a swing door, these tubs come in various sizes and include a built-in seat for safety. Options include massage jets, in-line heaters and quick drains for safety. Grab bars come standard on the rail of the tub and are often installed on the wall surrounds for added safety.
When considering this type of modification, consider how long you will remain in the home. Installing a walk-in tub is a commitment and should be one that is made for the long-term.
There are limitations to installing the walk-in tubs so a reputable installer should walk you through the steps needed to modify your bathroom in order to accommodate the size of tub you are installing. Typical installations can take 2-5 days depending on the type of home being modified and the style of tub being installed.
A less expensive option if soaking in the tub is not a priority is a tub-to-shower conversion. This modification involves removing your existing bathtub and shower and replacing that with a low threshold shower base and wall surround. Some shower bases come with built-in seats while others are non-seated. Separate seats can be installed in the corner of the shower or a medical grade shower chair can be used safely when needed and stored elsewhere when not in use. Grab bars are often installed on the long wall of the shower as well as on the outside to assist with entering and exiting the shower safely.
Shower doors should be installed on these modifications to prevent water from escaping onto the bathroom floor. High quality tempered-glass doors should be used but care should be taken to not use the integrated towel bars as safety/grab bars.
Tub-to-shower conversions typically do not impact the resale value of a home and are a wonderful option for someone who wants safety but doesn’t want to sacrifice design or style in any way.
Typical installations take 1-2 days and the shower is ready to use quickly!
Tub Cut Outs
The least expensive option for modifying an existing tub is a tub cut out. This process involves cutting a hole in the existing tub rail so that simply stepping through the opening into the bathtub is easy. Clients have the option to have a small swing door installed in the cut out which allows the tub to be filled with water if needed. The area is sealed to prevent water damage.
Grab bars can also be installed on both the tub rail and the wall surround to assist with safety and stability.
Installations typically take less than 5 hours and can be done on any type of bath tub.
This option should only be considered if resale value of the home is not an issue.
Safety and accessibility in the bathroom is a high priority for many people as they approach their retirement years. Choosing the right product for your particular situation is very personal and takes time. Consult a professional who has all of the above options and you will be able to make an informed decision with the help of someone who has the expertise to guide you through this change.