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My wife (a slightly over 55+ woman – if I tell you her real age, I’ll be sleeping in the garage) has a funny saying. When she’s getting ready in the bathroom early in the morning she’ll say, “The time from wakeup to pretty keeps getting longer.”
While this is her reality, Rose has no less desire to look pretty (and I’d better say sexy as well) at ‘55+’ than she did when we got married at 25. However, this doesn’t mean she wants to get ready (no matter what her mobility, eyesight or other skills are) in an institutional looking bathroom. No, she wants a bathroom which is stylish, dare I say sexy and one which is (if there is a God in heaven) simple to clean.
I’m sure Rose’s wishes aren’t different from your Mom, wife or elderly Aunt. And whether you’re building a backyard cottage, an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), granny flat or new home, the last thing anyone wants (woman or a man) is for their bathroom to look or feel like a hospital room.
Sure, the bathroom you design for someone 55+ needs to be safe. However, what people really want is for it to look stylish, be simple to clean and not take months and months and months to get built with contractors trapesing in dust and dirt.
The challenge is how can you get a senior living bathroom which is safe – but also sleek, sexy and simple to maintain?
Although this may sound like an impossible dream, it’s not. Check out 7 fun ideas to allow the ‘young lady’ in your life to get a bathroom she will not only love, but you’ll know is safe and will work for years to come.
Idea #1 – Start with the right foundation and work your way up
While your shower base is often thought of as an obstacle you have to step over (a high threshold is the source of many bathroom falls), it can be transformed into a sleek, seamless and simple to maintain work of art….IF you know the right products to use. Here’s what you need to know.
Instead of using a ‘built up’ tiled shower pan with teeny-tiny mosaic tiles which are a pain to clean, consider these alternatives:
- Alternative 1 – A glass reinforced plastic base – This base will not only provide you with a safe ‘zero threshold’ entry, but the matte white and matte black finishes give you a fashion-forward look.
- Alternative 2 – A low profile solid surface shower pan – Solid surface or cultured stone shower pans come in many colors and DO NOT require your tile scrub brush ever again. Yes, I did say ever again.
- Alternative 3 – A one-level bathroom with large format tiles – Tile shower pans don’t have to be cleaning nightmares…. IF they’re designed right. A one-level wet room with a linear drain and large-format tiles, can be the answer.
Idea #2 – Use shower and tub wall surrounds for a sleek, sexy bathroom without tile maintenance hassles
Whether you’re installing a walk-in bathtub in a room addition, or a walk-in shower in an accessory dwelling unit, the humidity in your wife or Mom’s bathroom can be the devil. Tile grout joints which get ugly, brown and moldy can become FAMILY ENEMY #1.
To eliminate the worries of shower and tub surround grout lines some people have ‘settled for’ utilitarian molded wall panels made of acrylic or cultured stone. While these panels do provide function, they’re far from sexy. Here’s a better solution.
Enter laminate wall panels.
Whether you’re building a backyard cottage for Mom, or a granny flat for your elderly Aunt, it’s nice to have a low maintenance surface which doesn’t sacrifice style. Using these 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick panels which use a simple click, lock and seal installation approach, gives you the look of tile and stone with NONE (can you say that again – NONE) of the hassle to you (because there’s no grout joints to maintain) or your builder (they get the job done quickly).
Idea #3 – Don’t lose faith that a safe bathroom can’t be stylish. Cool grab bars do exist
Is there anything uglier in a hospital bathroom than a grab bar? OK, maybe the bedpan has it beat, but grab bars, while useful in a senior bathroom where mobility is a challenge, are usually downright ugly. However, this doesn’t need to be the case.
Decorative grab bars, towel holders and grab rails show safety and style aren’t mutually exclusive.
Don’t let ugly grab bars ruin your new addition, Mother in law suite or first floor master bathroom as you’re designing an ‘aging in place’ solution.
Idea #4 – Maximize light to make your bathroom a delight (OK – it’s a corny rhythm, but light in a bathroom is critical)
If you’ve seen your kids or grandkids (practically) read in the dark – you know its obvious eyesight (unlike fine wine) DOES NOT IMPROVE with age. Depressing, yet true.
It’s for this reason a sexy and simple 55+ bathroom needs fun and functional lighting. You can do this with an LED mirror. Or add style and light with a multi-patterned glass block window. Or bring the outdoors in (without compromising privacy) with a transom window.
When in doubt add more lighting to your new home bathroom, room addition or accessory dwelling unit.
Idea #5 – Install a vanity with style and purpose
Who wouldn’t want a larger bathroom? This would be most everyone. However, in most cases you need an improved design for your smaller bathroom to ‘live bigger.’
One big roadblock (literally) for your bathroom to feel more spacious (and ensure it’s accessible and will work for years to come) are standard floor-based vanities. These 25” deep monstrosities eat up room in narrow bathrooms and are difficult for someone with limited mobility to use.
The question is there a better way? Fortunately, there is.
This better way is to use a ‘slim-line’ wall hung vanity. The advantages of this type of vanity are someone can ‘roll up’ to it, it’s simpler to clean and makes your small bathroom look bigger.
Idea #6 – Cut your construction hassles and time of completion down to size with modular off-site building
If you’ve ever built a home or remodeled you know how painstakingly long, dusty and dirty a process it can be.
The building process is more challenging if the work’s being done for your Mom who has health challenges and worries every step of the way. Can you relate? And building a room addition, granny flat or Mother in Law suite is not a simple matter.
It’s good to know she can enjoy her sexier bathroom AND cut building hassles at the same time. A way to do this is with a process called modular offsite construction.
Modular room additions, homes and ADU’s are built to precise standards in a factory. They are 65-85% complete BEFORE arriving at the job site. This cuts aggravation and the amount of time it takes to complete the work.
Building doesn’t have to be a complete PAIN (or PIA if you know this acronym). Why bumble and fumble through a long-building process and ‘try’ to manage your loved ones through a construction project? Use modular as a faster, low-pain approach.
Idea #7 – Smart placement of fixtures and accessories won’t make your shower ‘all wet’
Sometimes shower designs are a disaster. You have to put up with shower valves which ‘guarantee’ you get dosed in cold water before you get in. Yuck. Or ugly dollar-store plastic shower caddies over the shower head which are hard for your very short Mom to reach (just another thing to worry about).
Smart shower design is essential to have a stylish space you’ll feel confident your Mom, Aunt or wife can use without your concern of a fall. And there’s no better time to get the design right than when you’re building a new home or putting on an addition.
Here’s a couple of small, yet important, tips to make a stylish and comfortable design.
- Tip 1 – Make sure your valve to turn on the water is accessible without getting wet. Sometimes this requires putting the valve on the wall perpendicular (sorry to bring up a ‘geometry’ word) to the shower head.
- Tip 2 – Get low maintenance niches and corner shelves (made of materials like brushed stainless and solid surface) which are simple to clean. Install them lower on the wall so someone in a seated position or small person standing up can reach them.
Smart design will not only be pretty – it WON’T be frustrating or lead to unnecessary accidents.
Although you may be overwhelmed by the number of decisions in the design of a bathroom, I hope you see it’s possible to have a dream space which is safe, sleek, sexy and simple.
If you need help contact Better Living Express on how to use the time-effective modular building process and accessible design for your senior living addition, new home build or granny pad. If you want information on laminate wall panels for modular homes, one level wet rooms or low-profile shower pans call Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888.
Mike Foti is CEO of Innovate Building Solutions (a nationwide supplier of laminate kitchen and bathroom wall panels, shower bases and glass and glass block windows and enclosures). He can be reached at 216-310-1074 or connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikefoti/
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