How to Design a Senior-Friendly Bathroom

Looking to design a senior friendly bathroom? There are a few bathroom safety measures you can take, to make sure your bathroom is ready to support you now and over the next several years. From better counter heights, zero entry showers, and safer bathroom tiles—these bathroom design tips will help you plan for the future.


Bathroom Design Tips

If your plan for a more senior-friendly bathroom includes some major renovations, consider these tips for adding more convenience to a senior bathroom.

Tip 1: Include a Walk-in Shower

For seniors, walk-in showers that have either no barrier, or only a small barrier to step over, can hugely simplify life. Walk-in showers for seniors are particularly helpful since the area where you step in is typically wet. The combination of a slippery wet floor and an unsteady step are a quick recipe for disaster so the smaller the lip of the space, the better. If you are looking to renovate your bathroom to include a walk-in shower, just keep in mind that the new layout may require a little more floor space. If you are looking to purchase a new home, particularly in a 55 and over community, most, if not all, of the floor plans will likely offer a minimal or no entry shower.


Tip 2: Accessible Entryways of 32-48 Inches

Depending on who your senior bathroom remodeling project is for, you’ll want to consider how much space you allow for in entryways. This includes the doorway and the entry into the shower. While most door widths are 36 inches, older homes’ doors, and shower entrances can be considerably smaller. To plan for now and in the future, consider entryways of 32 to 48 inches. This should be wide enough to accommodate most wheelchairs or walkers. And, even if you don’t foresee the need for either a wheelchair or walker, this little bit of extra space can clear the path better in case of a fall.


Tip 3: Counter Height to Fit Needs

The height of your bathroom counters could also make a senior bathroom more accessible. The typical height of a wheelchair armrest is about 29 inches. With this in mind, it’s recommended that the ideal countertop height for a person using a wheelchair is a minimum of 28 inches and no higher than 34 inches. On the flip side, if your plans are not based around a wheelchair—a taller counter might be good for seniors who are on the taller side since it will prevent them from having to bend over when they wash their hands.


Trying to plan ahead? Sometimes bathrooms have a double sink with one sink that is higher than the other. This is a great idea in a guest bathroom and could still add resale value to your house since a lower sink could be very attractive to families with kids.

Tip 4: Higher Toilet Height

The Americans With Disabilities Act requires toilets installed inside public handicap stalls to have a toilet seat height between 17-19 inches, measured from the floor to the top of the toilet seat. These taller toilets, while beneficial for older adults, are also convenient for most folks in general since they require less distance to sit down and make it easier to stand back up. However, tall toilets are not ideal for those on the shorter side. If you are shorter, make sure your feet can firmly plant on the ground.

Tip 5: Bathroom Tiles for Less Slippage

You might also want to make considerations for bathroom tiles in a senior bathroom. You can find glazed porcelain tiles that are designed to look like marble, stone, or granite. These are ideal for senior bathrooms since they provide more traction and are less slippery. If you are looking for a simpler plan, you might also consider adding a layer of cork bathroom tiles on top of your existing tiles. Cork tiles are warmer, softer in case of a fall, and easy to install. However, they may not have as long of a lifespan in wet areas.


Bathroom Safety Measures

There are other bathroom safety measures you might want to consider as well in a senior bathroom. Here are just a couple.

Measure 1: Install Grab Bars

Consider installing grab bars in areas that may be harder to navigate in the bathroom. This includes tub areas, where it may be difficult to step over the tub, or toilet frames that make it easier to lift yourself on or off the toilet. You can also put them inside of showers or at the entrance to the bathroom where there could be a transition between tile and carpet.


Measure 2: Install Padded Flooring

We already talked about cork floors for added softness, but you can add padded flooring to your bathroom instead of investing in bathroom tiles. There are several different options that easily lay on top of floors. The price and design of these vary greatly, so you might want to spend time finding a product that is right for you.


There are a few bathroom design decisions you can make and bathroom safety measures you can take to create a senior bathroom that is more convenient for aging adults. Find even more bathroom remodeling ideas for seniors, or explore design ideas for a senior kitchen. And if you’re not a DIY person, discover new senior housing options that take care of some of the hard work for you.



Contributed to The 55+ Society

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Published  1.13.21 

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