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For elderly people or people with arthritis, hip, knee or back problems, having a toilet at the proper height can eliminate painful bending and potential falls. Replacing the toilet with a comfort height, elongated toilet is a popular option. It raises the height of the toilet from the standard 15”-17” up to 17” - 19”. That is a full 2” of bending that is no longer necessary. This option offers the convenience of the height without the “medical” look. For those who need additional height, a toilet seat extender can be used instead of or in addition to the comfort height toilet to add up to 4 additional inches.
Replacing a standard height (32”) vanity with a comfort or “right” height (36”) vanity will reduce bending, stooping and strain on your back. Adding drawers with pulls make storage more accessible than one large cabinet where things can get pushed into the back. Wall hung or pedestal sinks are very good space saving options for those using walkers, canes or wheelchairs. They offer varying heights and a stylish look while allowing more floor space to make room for other accommodations.
Walk in baths
Converting to a walk in bathtub is an easy solution because it offers the safety of not having to step up and over into a standard bathtub for those with mobility issues and also eliminates slipping. Walk-in tubs normally take the same amount of space as a standard tub and come equipped with a leak-proof door that opens fairly close to floor level. These tubs come with many accessories for individual needs including handrails, adjustable shower heads and seating.
Walk in Showers
Walk in Showers can be more preferable to customers than Walk in Baths. Walk in Showers can take less room and customers have more choice in the look when the shower is custom made out of ceramic tile. Acrylic showers are also available. Many times, they are made in such a way that the accessibility advantages are hidden by the beauty of the materials used. Showers offer the benefit of not having to wait for a Walk in Bath to fill or drain, thereby keeping you warmer as you wait for the water to fill and drain from the tub. Low step or no step shower bases, grab bars, seating and hand-held shower sprays are all safety options that can be included.
Slip Resistant Flooring
Slippery floors pose a huge safety concern and replacing them is often one of the first changes made in a home that is being updated for Age In Place. Wet flooring, especially in the foyer, kitchen or bath areas has contributed towards many ER visits! There are lots of non-slip options available, depending on the look you want to achieve and the money you want to spend. Some flooring will require you to not only remove the existing finish floor but replace the sub floor before installing the new slip resistant flooring. Some options will go over your existing floor without any major construction. This will depend on the condition of your existing floor and the material selection you make. Solid surface flooring such as slate or stone is a natural and beautiful option. Stone has inherent ridges that create a grasping surface. Ceramic tile can be a good option when the tile is a matte finish or the tile is small, such as a 2x2 with a lot of grout lines to prevent slippage. A large ceramic tile with few grout lines poses a hazard and should be replaced. Both slate and ceramic flooring generally require the removal of the floor and subfloor for proper installation and to keep the transition area of the room at an even height with the neighboring room, which if too high, can create a tripping factor. Less expensive options would be to install vinyl flooring over the existing surface not only because it is a non-slip surface but because the height of the material normally will not pose a tripping hazard. A new trend in residential, copied from the commercial industry, is to apply an epoxy non slip floor coating on the surface of the floor. It will apply, in a paint-like fashion to just about any existing surface.
Adapting a kitchen can be a little trickier without remodeling the entire kitchen. Complete kitchen remodels can be more costly, but will allow more flexibility and options when creating an AIP friendly environment. Today, people are steering away from the traditional wall cabinet and focusing on storage with easy reach. Fewer cabinet boxes or those with pull out shelves and more drawer options offer more accessible storage and reduce reaching and bending. Lower cabinets / countertops (average 32” high off the finished floor), rounded countertop edges and sink bases that are open or angle down, leaving leg room for wheelchair access are popular. Shallow kitchen sinks with rear drains, single lever or loop faucets for easy grasping make operating the water easier. Wall ovens and microwaves are mounted 31” off the finished floor and cooktops can be purchased with staggered burners to prevent accidental burns. Conversely, raising a dishwasher off the floor by a minimum of 6” makes it easier to load and unload. Lowering electrical outlets and switches and lighting with hands free operations as well as changing windows to allow opening and closing are other options that can be addressed in either a complete or partial renovation.
Coming & Going
The outside of y our home may need to be evaluated as well. If your walkway is less than 36”, and there is a potential for a walker or wheelchair, it may be best to widen the walkway it to a minimum of 36”. Concrete or stamped concrete are good options, as pavers create a rough pathway that can be difficult to maneuver and cause tripping. Metal or wooden walker/wheelchair ramps and handrails can be added for safety if steps need to be used for access to the house. Sensor lighting, lever door handles and keyless entry can be added. If the house is older and the interior stairs are narrow, you may consider replacing the stairs altogether. Treads should be 10”-11” deep and risers no more than 7” high. If a stair lift is in the plans, the stairway needs to be 4’ wide. Appropriate handrails may also need to be added. Carpeting should be removed from the stairs and refinishing or painting is often necessary. Color contrasting the treads and risers and the top and bottom stairs give a visual to the climber and provides added safety. Enlarging doorways can be very important accommodation. Reframing a non-load bearing wall is a not a difficult endeavor however when the wall is load bearing, although it can still be done, it takes a little more time and is more expensive. New doors, trim and casing is often needed. A less expensive option, if you have the proper clearances are swing-clear hinges which can replace the existing door hinges if opening needs to be opened less than 2”-3” As always, smoke detectors and CO detectors should be added for overall safety. A smoke detector should be installed in all bedrooms and a combination smoke detector/CO detector should be installed in the common area outside the bedrooms.