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Designing Showers with Aging-in-Place in Mind

There’s been an increase in recent years in the concept of “aging in place.” That is, instead of spending money for assisted living or a similar facility more people are choosing to grow old in their own home.

There are many considerations when planning a shower enclosure for someone with special needs, keeping safety in mind.  Shower features such as curb-less (also known as no step entry or barrier free) and wider doors for a larger entrance are recommended for those with physical disabilities. The American Disability Act (ADA) guidelines and requirements can help you to integrate these safety features into any shower space.

When remodeling or constructing new showers designed for wheelchair accessibility or other physical disabilities, a shower space should be designed by integrating a frameless or semi-frameless shower enclosure style with safety features necessary for easy, independent access.

When you decide upon the type of shower enclosure you would like, you need also consider which type of glass doors will work best. Consider the size and location of your shower space, the direction of the shower head when planning door placement and any nearby fixtures that may impede the operation of the shower doors.  Do you need a roll in shower or a handicapped accessible walk-in?

A curb-less shower adheres to universal design principles which are design principles to allow for accessibility to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. A curb-less shower is very practical solution for those that are aging-in-place. Another alternative is a curbed shower with a slip resistant shower pan which allows easy accessibility.  Glass shower doors can be single, double and outswing.  To meet the ADA accessibility standard, doors must have a clear width of 32 inches from the face of the door to the opposite stop.  It is advisable to make sure other doorways in your home also meet this standard.

In addition to shower design, advancements in technology offer new products to improve safety in the bathroom. Voice activated controls can turn lights and faucets on and off and regulate water temperature.  Voice activated controls can also control tub filling and draining as well as toilet flushing.

We recommend that you work with an experienced remodeler familiar with universal design principles or is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) remodeler. Even though you implement safety features, your aging in place bathroom does not need to have a sterile or hospital-like appearance. There are many options that will allow you to have a beautiful, safe, functional and accessible new shower space.

This article was written by Stacy Argo and published in the April 21, 2019 edition of the Houston Chronicle.