Living in Place Bathroom Design – Six Important Factors to Consider

This post was originally published on 9/1/18 and updated on  1/17/20 to reflect the most current terminology in accessible design.

Some of these links in this post are affiliate  links, which means I might earn a small commission if you click through them and make a purchase. It does not cost you anything or change the price of the items in any way.

No one likes to talk about getting old, or even older. I’ve learned that many of my clients do not want to be reminded of their mortality. But, as their interior designer, I feel like it’s my job to raise the issue, especially in the case of a bathroom remodel for seniors.

If you are in your sixties and planning a major renovation of your primary bathroom, then it is worth thinking about optimizing the new bathroom design for living in place so that you can remain in your home as long as possible. I wouldn’t be serving my clients if I created a bathroom for them that didn’t meet their needs for at least the next 15 to 20 years.

Why should I consider Living in Place when planning my primary bathroom design?

Design for Living in Place draws on the tenets of Universal Design. Many people think that Universal Design is about creating handicapped accessible spaces, but it’s actually much broader in its application.

When I mention Living in Place (or Aging in Place) to my clients, their minds immediately jump to being wheelchair bound, and they kind of freak out. It’s possible to be guided by Universal Design principles in your home and not extend them as far as creating a wheelchair accessible space. It’s all about your particular needs for your home.

So how do I implement Universal Design or Living In Place in my bathroom design?

#1 Start at the Entrance

Many older homes have bathrooms with doors that are only 28″ wide. If there is enough room for framing, consider enlarging the door to at least 32″.

Although we aren’t talking specifically about wheelchair access, 32″ is the minimum door opening to accommodate a wheelchair. And, it’s actually easier to navigate a wider opening with a walker or assistant as well. While you’re at it, switch out any round door knobs for lever handles.

If the space allows, you could replace the traditional hinged door with a pocket door and automate the open/close function.

Chris Loves Julia Bathroom Pocket Door
Chris Loves Julia

There are special hinges that you can install on your bathroom door that will allow for more clearance into the space. These hinges use the same screw holes as the existing hinges. They are also great for when your architecture simply does not permit for a larger door opening. 

Health Smart Accessible Hinges for Wheelchairs
Accessible Door Hinges

#2 Install Blocking for Grab Bars

The best time to install blocking in your walls for grab bars at your toilet and in your shower is during a major remodel. Especially in your shower. If you should need a grab bar later, it will be impossible to install it without blocking, and you don’t want to rip out all that pretty tile you just installed.

You don’t need to install the grab bars right away. Make sure the contractor notes their location on your plans, and you can add them later when they become necessary.

Aging in Place Bathroom Remodel - accessible shower design Barbara Grushow Designs
Barbara Grushow Designs

#3 Optimize Your Shower

Aside from grab bar blocking, there are a few other design elements you should include in your shower. First, you will want to enlarge the shower to at least 5′ x 3′ even if it means eliminating your tub. 

Discuss installing a curbless shower with your contractor. A curbless shower has no threshold to step over, reducing your likelihood of falling. And, FYI, I actually fell stepping over the curb in our shower while pregnant, so this issue doesn’t only affect older people.

If your bathroom is large enough, consider eliminating the shower door altogether. If a door is necessary, then enlarge it from the standard 24″ to 32″. A sliding barn door style is a perfect solution rather than a swinging glass door.

Kohler Sliding Glass Shower Door - Aging in Place Bathroom Remodel
Kohler Sliding Shower Doors

Include a bench that is at least 18″ deep and 18″ high. I would also make it wider, spanning the width of the shower. If you’ve ever shaved your legs in a shower without a bench, you know how difficult it is. Every shower needs some sort of bench!

There may come a time when you do actually want to sit while you shower, and it might not have anything to do with getting old. You could break your ankle or have your hip replaced. 

Corner benches are not optimal for this scenario. And, make sure you add a recessed wall niche that is accessible from a seated position at the bench.

folding teak shower bench
Folding Teak Shower Bench

The bench does not have to be permanent. By planning a 5′ x 3′ shower, you can always bring in a portable bench if it becomes necessary. If floor space is at a premium, consider a folding teak bench. If you add the blocking during construction, you can add this bench later when you need it.

Delta Dryden Hand Shower
Delta Dryden Hand Shower

Add a separate hand shower on an adjustable bar close to the bench. I always specify a hand shower for cleaning anyway.

Use an anti-slip mosaic tile for the shower floor. Mosaics, by nature, are less slippery because there are so many grout lines. Often a curbless shower is installed with a linear drain, the purpose of which is to continue the main bathroom floor seamlessly into the shower. It’s a cool look, but I would not do it in this situation unless that tile is textured, like many of the faux wood tiles.

Finally, choose plumbing fixtures with lever handles instead of cross handles. Yes, the cross handles can look more upscale but they are harder to operate if you develop joint issues.

#4 Choose Finishes & Materials Thoughtfully

As you age, your vision will naturally degenerate. One way to compensate for the loss of vision in design is by incorporating high contrast at changes in plane (horizontal to vertical). For instance, if you select a medium to dark floor, you may want to paint your baseboards white so that the change in plane from floor to wall is obvious. If you choose dark cabinets, then select light countertops.

Next, make sure your floor tile has a high coefficient of friction and use smaller tiles so that you have more grout lines. I think the wood look tiles are actually perfect for a Universal Design bathroom because many of them are textured and only 6″ wide. Avoid high-contrast patterned mosaics which can seem to vibrate.

#5 Float the Vanity

studio mcgee floating vanity
Studio McGee

If you raise your vanity off the floor by 9″, it will make your bathroom feel larger and add a contemporary vibe to the design. It will also accommodate the wheels of a walker. This is definitely one of those Universal Design principles no one will ever think twice about. Guests will just think you have a cool modern bathroom. You should install the countertop height at 34″, which is 2″ lower than standard height.

Floating Vanity Aging in Place Bathroom Remodel
Double Floating Vanity

Some other vanity features that are great for Universal Design and Aging in Place are:

  • Create a seated makeup counter. If it gets harder for you to stand as you age, or if you have a mobility issue, you may prefer to dry your hair and apply your makeup while seated.
  • Install a swing-out, lighted makeup mirror with a magnifying option. These are great for shaving too, completely illuminate your face, and make everything easier to see (good and bad). You also don’t have to lean over the counter to see yourself.
  • Install pulls instead of knobs. Pulls are easier to grasp than knobs, especially for arthritic fingers.
  • Select a faucet for your sink that has a single lever handle, which is the easiest style to operate.

#6 Design Your Lighting with Intention

In order to use your bathroom safely, you need to be able to see properly. Install a variety of lighting including scones on either side of the mirror, recessed can lights both inside and outside of the shower, and LED strip lighting under the floating vanity or in the toe kick of a regular vanity.

What about the bathtub?

If you don’t have room to create a large shower with all of the features I described unless you eliminate the tub, then get rid of the tub.

If you do have room for a tub, then consider a model that is shallower to reduce the perils of stepping over the side and keep the thickness of the side as narrow as possible.

If you absolutely must have a tub and do plan to use it for as long as possible, then you may want to consider investing in a walk-in version.

American Standard Walk In Tub
American Standard Walk-In Tub

When does Living in Place become less important for a bathroom remodel?

This is a very good question. I think there are a couple circumstances in which it would be less important to consider Living in Place for a bathroom remodel.

First, if your primary suite is on the second floor of your home, then it’s less likely you’ll remain in your home if mobility becomes a serious issue. You may want to consider creating a more accessible bathroom and bedroom suite on your main level instead.

Second, if you are in your sixties but planning to move within the next five to ten years, then it sounds like your remodel might be driven more by resale considerations than your personal preferences. But, it’s never a bad idea to use Universal Design principles whenever possible.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, if you thoughtfully approach your bathroom remodel from a Universal Design perspective, then it probably will not affect the aesthetics of the design.  You can still achieve a beautiful new bathroom that can serve you for many years to come.

I believe it’s possible to consider Universal Design in a bathroom remodel project given each client’s particular situation to create a flexible space that adapts to their changing needs as they age while making it beautiful and meeting their aesthetic vision.

When executed thoughtfully, many people wouldn’t even realize that a space incorporates Universal Design principles. The whole point of Universal Design, in my opinion, is to minimize the differences in our physical abilities, not to call attention to them.

I hope you found this post on remodeling your bathroom for Living in Place helpful. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions on how you can incorporate these ideas into your bathroom remodeling project.

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62 thoughts on “Living in Place Bathroom Design – Six Important Factors to Consider

  1. All of this is so important to me right now, as I’m helping my parents transition into a new place (once we find it) because they are getting older and need assistance. Such perfect timing to read all of this!

    1. I’m glad it helped. Some of these things can be easier to accomplish than others, but they’re good to consider during a remodel or new build. And, they definitely don’t have to look institutional.

  2. Such a great informative article. I just did a CEU about this and was so happy to learn that aging in place goes beyond what people think of when they think universal design. It can still be beautiful, and a great idea to implement now

    1. Veronica, it put a big smile on my face to see a comment from you on my little blog!

  3. I wife has MS and is already in a wheelchair. She needs a shower chair where she can transfer onto from her chair. It can’t be in the middle of the back wall of the shower.
    Should we just keep her portable seat or are there other options? We have the space in the bathroom to enlarge the shower by removing the wall between the shower and tub. What size of a shower do we need to make it doorless and without a curtain? They always are a challenge. Any ideas or pictures would you appreciated.
    Thank goodness so much

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Technically a true ADA shower only needs to be 30″ x 60″; however, the challenge in existing homes typically lies in accommodating the clear floor needed for transferring into the shower as well as the interior configuration. Here is the ADAAG link. A fold-down shower seat like this one from Moen might be your best option; however, it will definitely need to be screwed into studs.

      Doorless with no curtain will probably require quite a large space to ensure that the water doesn’t get out. When designing assisted living shower compartments, we often opted for a shower curtain instead of glass doors as it provides more access to the shower. If you can remodel, you can really optimize the shower for her by adding the fold-down seat and locating the hand shower and controls near it and planning for a curbless entry and a curtain.

  4. We have master bathroom due for major renovation and prefer to have it done with all these suggestions in mind. Would be able to make blueprint for my renovation if you have all the detailed information and dimensions? How would you charge for the services if you have it done?

    1. Hi Ekta, yes, this is something I could do though it wouldn’t be until October at the earliest. Did you check out my e-Design services page?

  5. I’m doing this right now (planning remodel) we are approaching 60s & both have back & joint issues . All great ideas I will be using in my bathroom remodel . Thanks

  6. My understanding is that the new building code for new construction calls for a bedroom and a bath to have a 36” opening. That should help a lot of people! We are building now and are installing 2 curbless showers. They make so much sense.

    1. Hi Bonnie, what state are you in? I think the codes vary by state with California usually being the strictest. And, I do think the curbless showers make a lot of sense whenever you can make them large enough to avoid a lot of leaking.

      I’m also raising my sinks up to 36” high vanity & a vessel sink for back issues which both my husband, I & many hard working people now experience with aging .

  7. I love your incredibly helpful info! We too are moving and redoing the 1964 baths and kitchen! Thank you for all you too!

  8. What a thoughtful article – thank you! I’ll be checking out your e-design options for an upcoming remodel. One thing you didn’t mention was the placement of the toilet. Could you comment please on the preferred space dimensions? And, should it be a wall hung? Thanks! Maureen

    1. You’re welcome!!

  9. After hurricane Harvey left our entire bottom floor empty clear to the brick, my doctor suggested this would be a great oportuity to make some changes. Most of the changes are listed in ur article but after hiring an aging in place designer and doing some of my own research i would like to offer some additional findings/ tips and thoughts.
    1. Infinty drain. Im not sure why it was considered negative in this article but the drain location forces tiler to one even slope instead if 4 or 6 meeting in the middle. If u balance is off, useing a walker or wheeling into shower this makes a tremendous difference.
    2. Handles. You mentioned leaver handles. I was stupified when my contractor suggested wave, touch or even voice activated valves. Its not new technology, but the options for non commercial version of this are growing and coming down in price. I installed wave action toilet (you can also purchase an adapter that does this if u have an existing toilet) wave/ touch soap dispenser and wave touch faucet. Make sure u pick one that allows you to control temp so you do not end up scalded. The shower tub and lights can be turned on several ways. There are many brands that have digital options but we chose the verdera colection by kohler. I can turn on shower w my cell phone from my bed, by a digital read push button device next to shower, or simply using the voice activated mirror and say’ turn on stephanie’s shower’ you can program and adjust different shower preferences or change vocally while in the shower. This was an add to the budget but we felt worth it bc this device is hooked up to the internet and i can litterally call from anywhere in my bathroom if i needed assistance, to some alexa or google box in the house, someones phone or directly to emergency. I love having the shower warm up while in bed!
    3. Heated floors, walk in tubs, shower doors. I dont know about everyone else, but if i go from a warm bath or shower and get chilled b4 drying off my arthritus will contract all my muscles till im curled up in a ball. We opted for a dual swinging door that goes almost to the ceiling so i can dry off in a warm place. Also heated floors can also extend to the seat. Nothing is worse than sitting on cold tile. This was easily hooked up to the digital key pad and can now be voice activated as well or from my phone while in bed…which was also the dealbreaker for a walk in tub. I tried one and nothing was worse than sitting there getting cold while the water slowly drains out. Unlike other tubs, you cant open the door till the water is out. I chose a tub with microbubbles that reduce inflamation, shaped like an 8 with a skinny side to sweep legs over while sitting on the fat side of the 8. I also found ones w 2 handles in the tub. We also added a thick secure post to the one corner that didnt have a wall so i could add another descreet grab bar on that side of the tub. Ps speaking of grap bars…
    4. did you know they make designer grab bars in a variety of shapes and finishes? Also, did you know there are many brands that will let u switch the hand shower bar to an equally functional grab bar? Nothing is worse than something that looks like a grab bar coming out of the wall when u fall.
    5. Doors. We made openings 36 inches, moved a few so there were not any tight corners to navigate then added Eclisse self open and close doors. With barely a touch the door softly opens then will softly close on its own. You can control the speed at which this happens. If you are clinging to a walker w both hands having to move a lever and push the door open or pull ( another reason to do pocket doors, you dont have to nevigate around the actual door to go through. ) takes way more effort and balance than a quick flick of a finger.
    6. Did you know home renovations for medical purposes are tax deductible? There is a list on the IRS website or ask any good accountant. Bc we were also rebuilding from the flood it was tricky separating the aging in place changes from the straight repair costs. However, it was made easier because my doctor and I had discussed the changes, and I hired a certified aging in place designer.
    7. Most of these changes can be appreciated not only by people needing assistance, but we could easily change the words ‘aging in place’ to ‘smart bathroom’ for the millinials if we needed to sell. Sticking to designer grab bars, discretely placed, and skipping the walk in tub and now you have a home marketable to a younger crowd too.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Stephanie – wow, this is such great input. And yes, since I wrote the article “aging” in place is now passé and Living in Place is the new phrase of choice. I need to redo the article to reflect that. I am headed to the Kitchen and Bath Show in Vegas in a couple weeks and hope to learn about the latest in accessibility design and home tech.

      1. Jillian, I’d love to hear of some of the innovations you learn about re: Living In Place! Would you consider an update on this already great article??

        1. Hi Maureen – yes, I definitely plan to update this post and write more on the topic. I think it’s going to become more and more important especially as Baby Boomers get older. I know that neither my parents nor my in-laws are going to want to leave their homes any time soon.

          1. Thank you! I’ll look forward to it. I’m in the same boat as your parents. 😉


        My disabled son is moving into supported living and would love to see your e planning?
        Karen Robinson

      3. If you post
        Something new….sign me up. We are redoing the farm house into living in place…but I reside in a chair most of the time. You gave me great insight for new ideas…and beautiful ones.

  10. Muy interesante articulo. Estamos planeando la remodelación del baño de mi dpto muy antiguo (1959) y deseamos sacar 2 baños del actual. Uno para el cuarto principal y otro para udo de los otros cuartos. Pero me sugieren levantar todo el piso un escalón por el tema de los tubos de desagüe nuevos y para no debilitar el techo del depatmenro que está debajo del nuestro. Pero considero que esto no ayudaría al uso de una silla de ruedas. Qué podríamos hacer?

  11. Really interesting and thought inspiring article; we’re going to remodel our bath, and see what we can do without sacrificing style.

    1. Thank you!

  12. Your information is very helpful. We are currently designing an aging in place mbr. Our shower will be 5’ x4’. The opening will be curbless with a 36” opening. So I have two questions. With a 36 in opening that leaves a 2 ft wall. Not sure where I should put the shower head. I do plan to put a separate handheld near the bench. Also if you don’t use a linear drain what do you recommend ? Again concerned about the water spraying out into the bathroom with only a 2 ft wall space. Thank you for your guidance. Cindi

    1. Cindi – you don’t need to use a linear drain. You can switch to 2” mosaic at the threshold of the shower and use a regular drain. I did that in my own bathroom. Can you do a shower head that points down more like a rain shower? There will be less directional spray. Without seeing the layout, it’s hard for me to say exactly where to put the shower head.

  13. I am moving my 89 y/o mother into my home and I will be needing to update her new bathroom for her wheelchair use. Your article is so right on ! It includes the things I did not have specifics about. Thank you for you professional input. Now I can go head and plan . I really did not see those important areas like you provided.

    1. Hi Vickie, I’m so happy you found it helpful. Good luck with your bathroom updates. It can be tricky when you’re renovating an existing space.

  14. We are renovating our family vacation cabin next month, which includes the kitchen & master bathroom. We’ve gone back & forth regarding shower glass door versus shower curtain. I think your article has answered that question for me! It’s a very small bathroom, so shower curtain it is! Also, the wider entry door is an excellent tip. We hadn’t thought of that. Ours will be a barn door slider ( just because of limited space in the bathroom), so making the entry wider will be easy! Thank you for the information. I’ve pinned it so I can come back to it next month!

    1. Hi Dixie, if I were on a budget remodeling a bathroom, the glass would be the first thing to go. You can always add it later. Good luck with your reno!

      1. Ours was not so much a budget issue as it was an accessibility issue due to where the faucets would be located and (mostly for me) a cleaning issue. My husband and I own the cabin, but it’s open for any family members to use when we’re not there. My husband wanted the glass doors but was still not sure due to accessibility. Mine has always been the fact that I didn’t want to have to clean shower doors every time we arrive at the cabin, because someone else didn’t have my same perfectionism regarding that particular issue. I finally won the accessibility issue, and the shower curtain debate, thanks to your article! I did point out to Mr. that we could always add the doors later if we choose to and he didn’t mind saving the $700 to $1000+ for the doors either (for now)!

  15. Excellent article! Thank you so very much!
    We are in the process of looking to remodel our bathroom soon so that we can continue to live at home. We will be replacing the tub in one bathroom with a shower. The space is 57”x 28” and we would like to put in a curbless shower with no threshold. I’m assuming we would not be able to have it doorless since it is so small. Would we need to use a shower curtain or can we use a sliding barn door style glass door? Does this door have a bottom door track?

    1. Hi Amy! It would be tough to have no door unless you made it a wet room. I think a shower curtain would help save some of your budget, though I worry you’d still get a lot of water leaking at the floor. I think the sliding doors do have a bottom track. This would be good to discuss with the tile guy and contractor.

  16. Thank you for the great article. I love the sink you used in the “Designing a bathroom remodel” with the rounded front that comes out further than the counter. Could you tell me where you found the sink?
    Thank you.

  17. I’m thinking about using a triple tract shower door to create a larger opening into the shower(as opposed to dual track) . I can’t find anyone who makes one. I think with small bathrooms and an aging population, someone would have thought of this. Again I need help finding a triple track shower door. Help?

  18. I really enjoyed reading up on your great bathroom remodel ideas. Recently my husband was diagnosed with mesothelioma and we need to renovate the bathroom to accommodate his changing needs. There were many ideas you mentioned that I hadn’t considered…for example a seat in the shower, placement of shelving and mosaic tiles for safety. Also door and shower widths. Thank you so much. You have certainly made this project so much easier!

  19. We are currently in the process of getting a remodel in our MBR and MB. My husband is a Veteran and has ALS. Fortunately, the VA is assisting in the finances that will be incurred. I was very happy to see your article and the suggestions. Hope we can find someone to help us design with the Living in Place suggestions!
    Bless you in your efforts.

    1. My husband also was a vet with ALS. We built a house totally handicapped accessible with assistance from the VA. Our master bath had an opening of 36 inches with a barn door entrance since you cannot have a door opening into the bathroom. Should someone fall against a standard closed door, getting in the bathroom to help is impossible. There are lots of styles available now…Not all barn doors are rustic looking. Our shower had to be a minimum of 4ft X 4ft with a temperature controlled faucet. I had glass doors installed that swung both in & out fully open to allow the shower chair access. Of course, if possible, do a curbless stall. If done properly, water will not run out into the room. I also had the additional handheld faucet mounted lower than normal to allow it to reach all around & under his shower chair. Our vanity was half cabinet and half able to wheel up to & partially under. Fortunately since we built, we were able to make room openings wider. ALS is a horrible disease to live with but you’re in good hands with the VA.

  20. Hi Jillian,
    We are remodeling our ensuite bathroom right now and I am so glad i came across your post on pinterest. I am having a shoulder reconstruction in about 6 weeks and we have an enormous pain in the everywhere spa bath which is also the shower base! We love our house but it was the biggest ‘oh dear’ when we bought the house. We are lucky to have a home. Stepping over the edge of the tub is now not possible for me so out it is coming and in with a large walk in shower! Thanks heaps for your tips.

  21. Why lower the vanity 2″? I stand at my kitchen counter & want it higher cuz it hurts my back to stand at it at the regular height.

  22. I was wondering why you recommend lowering the counter top? I was planning to raise the counter top, as in Linda Capps comment. Thank you for your feedback! Caroline

    1. Universal Design is meant to accommodate a wide range of users. A 36″ countertop is too high for some people. I’m 5’1″ and I think 34″ would actually feel better to me. And, although it would be difficult for a seated person in a wheelchair to use a 34″ high top, it would definitely be easier than if it were at 36″.

  23. I would also recommend bidet toilets, such as Toto Washlet+ or Kohler. I am a nurse and care provider, and I would recommend bidet toilets for all care facilities and private homes with aging persons … actually for any person especially with the COVID pandemic and shortages of toilet paper! Thank you for a great & informational article!

    1. Thank you, that’s a great tip!

  24. As a retired occupational therapist remodeling my master bath for universal design, I have to weigh in here. Bench tile seats are often inadequate for balance issues (think post- stroke). Handheld showers often do not come with extra docking ports to allow a seated individual to place the shower easily on the wall next to them as they soap up. Handheld shower hoses are too short on most units, they need to be at least 86″ and most are 60″. (What are these plumbing companies thinking???? ) You state that corner bench seating is bad design and yes, so often they are built with inadequate depth. However using a corner seating system will help with balance. You could, of course, forgo the entire idea of a seat inside the shower and add the appropriate style of seating at time of need; there are many styles of shower chairs on the market. Finally, even with universal design, it might be prudent to have a rehab professional look at your personal and family health history to determine which factors might be most useful in planning a bathroom remodel. I have been appalled to tour houses actually built for the special needs of an individual and realize that in a very short time their disease process will require a much different bathroom setup.

    1. Hi Kris – these are all excellent points. I do like your idea about adding the bench seat afterwards if needed. I think I should add that I wrote this post from the perspective of many of my clients in their late 50s – early 60s thinking about possible mobility issues and wanting to stay in their homes as long as possible but not wanting to create an institutional feeling in their homes. So, we’re trying to add features that will give them as many years as possible in their home but knowing full well that a sever mobility problem may cause them to need a different living situation. Designing a bathroom for ADA or for someone who does have a condition that would necessitate a full accessible bathroom is a different topic and one that requires much thought and planning.

  25. Hello Jillian,
    Thank you so much for your article on “Aging in Place” points for the master bath! We are getting ready to build our “downsized home”. I would like to find out if you have specific suggestions for companies that sell the anti- slip tile you suggested for the shower. We live in Anniston, AL, which is in between Birmingham, AL and Atlanta, GA. We have Lowe’s and Home Depot near us.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Patricia, I’m so glad you found the information helpful. I don’t have any specific recommendations by brand. There are a few different factors you can use to evaluate whether or not the tile will be less slippery when wet. First, look for something with a noticeable texture like a porcelain or ceramic tile that mimics stone or wood but isn’t completely smooth. You should be able to feel the texture when you run your hand over it. It should not be polished and have a matte finish. One of the better ways to ensure less slippery conditions is to use a smaller tile like a mosaic or even a 6” x 6” square for your floor. More grout lines = less slippery.

  26. Hi Jillian,
    I really liked your observations about a living in place bathroom, I think now universal bathroom design. I had a couple of strokes 3-4 years ago; this year I decided to do a bathroom remodel. Couple of issues: what kind of bench for shower and whether to include bathtub? My right leg gets pretty cold in the winter; I was going to include a tub at right angles to a 3-4 foot long bench of the same height I could just swivel my legs around and hop in the tub. I too am concerned about the shower drain; my daughter wanted me to consider a pre fab shower pan, but I don’t want to unknowingly step on a tilted surface.

  27. When my parents were no longer able to use their second-story master bedroom/bathroom, we remodeled one of the first floor bathrooms to accommodate them. We incorporated many of the design elements mentioned above, but the single addition that garnered the most praise from my father was the towel warmer. Not only did it give them a warm, comforting towel each time they showered or washed their hands, but in winter he ran it around the clock that provided a little extra heat for those nocturnal trips to the restroom.

  28. Hi there and thank you for the wonderful information. I have a 15 yr old son with needs maximum assistance, he is stage 5 cerebral palsy. So for a shower stall or toileting we need the extra space for a caregiver to lift and transfer or be in the shower assisting in washing him up. We want the shower option but also he loves soaking in baths to help with his muscles but because he can’t sit completely upright we have a bath seat that has a reclined back much like an outdoor lounger seat. That being said he is 15 and still growing.. he’s currently 5’5 and in a standard tub he’s all scrunched up. Do you have a longer tub with more inner leg room and a soaker tub that is deeper so his body can be submerged so he’s not cold. Sometimes he soaks for a couple hours? A walk in tub won’t work for him as the seating option doesn’t accommodate his seating options
    Next with toileting he has a seat that rolls over the toilet to give him max support but would like to get a Spray wand type to help clean him up. I might add I am his mom and primary caregiver (53 yrs old) and only outweigh him by approximately 20 lbs.
    I sometimes feel I need a bedroom sized bathroom to accommodate his wheelchair and enough room for 2-3 people to help move him around. Any suggestions? Also would you recommend a changing area/table? And do you have a link to an updated article? Thank you for any insight. I want it to look as much like a luxury suite bathroom and not handicapped for resale value along down the line if needed

  29. Where did you find the grab bars for the toilet

  30. I disagree on one issue. I just did an aging in place remodel in my master bath. A free standing tub was installed with a WIDE edge, not NARROW! It gives me a place to sit while I swing my legs over the edge to get in or out. Also, the faucets were installed on the BACK side, not the front as shown in every photo of free standing tubs. Why would anyone want to climb around those to get in and out?

    1. I would never install the tub filler on the front of the tub. That makes no sense.

  31. This is so interesting that you are mentioning Living in Place, and incorporating that with Universal Design. That’s exactly what being a Certified Living in Place Professional allows you to do with tons more information, products updated often and collaborating with others who value this game-changing design in their homes. I’m doing more Forever Homes now because of this and value my commitment to helping people stay in their homes longer, more safely, more comfortable and more healthy. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront.

  32. Hi Julian – I am 74 and fit. I live in a big house on my own on a large property and I want to stay here. But I know that one day I may very well not be so fit. So I am remodelling my bathroom and thinking about handrails for the three steps up to the deck or maybe even a ramp (although that really is institutional looking!). I live in New Zealand where there is a severe shortage of experienced builders because of all the building that is going on to house our growing population. So having these details that I can convey to whoever does the work gives me some security that I can end up, now, with what I might need in the future. Thank you for a thoughtful article. And thank you to those who responded with added information.

  33. This was a very informative article and comes at a time when I am searching information to remodel a master bathroom for my husband who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. He has also suffered from 2 strokes, so his mobility has diminished over the years and I am looking to do this project ASAP. I would love to do this project with utilizing your edesign website, as mentioned earlier. Also, I would love to know if you have done a recent, updated article.
    Thank you.

  34. Hi Jillian,
    I am so impress with your information on the bathroom design. I am a researcher who now conduct the study on the bathroom design for older adults living in their places and have found the appropriate photos for the study on this site. In order to publish a paper in an academic journal, I would like to ask if you give me permission to use photos on this site. Of course, be sure to cite the source of photos. I am looking forward to receiving your reply.

  35. I am so impressive with the bathroom design. I am conducting a study on bathroom design for older adults with/without dementia. I ‘d like to use the images on this site for an academic paper. Could you give me permission to use the images. The source of the photo will be clearly stated in the paper.

  36. Hi Sook Lee,
    I am very interested in your study on designing for adults living with dementia. My husband has early dementia and I am planning to remodel a first floor bathroom in hopes of having him remain at home as long as possible. When your work is completed, how could I obtain a copy?

  37. BRILLIANT! I work with the senior population as a private caregiver in their homes and the challenges I face everyday is exhausting. I am planning my own home and even though I am still years off of the senior age I am building with aging in place in mind. It is mind blowing how resistant builders and drafters are to this aging in place concept. We never know at what age illness or injury will keep us from climbing a set of stairs.

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Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

About Jillian

Welcome! I’m a Des Moines based interior designer, boy mom to one, avid reader and always aspiring artist. I started this blog when I moved to Iowa in 2008. Currently, I write about life in Iowa, personal development, and my creative journey.

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