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It’s the dream of many homeowners to continue living in their current house throughout those golden retirement years in Sarasota. In order to turn this dream into a reality, however, you have to make sure each space in your house is safe, comfortable, and senior-friendly.

The bathroom tends to be the biggest culprit when it comes to at-home safety risks for older adults in Sarasota. There are several hazards that inherently exist in this space, from slippery floors and poor lighting to toilets and vanities that sit at an awkward height. Unless they are addressed, these seemingly minor issues can be a very real barrier to safe, independent living.

How Can I Make My Sarasota Bathroom Senior-Friendly?

If you or your loved one are hoping to age in place along the beautiful Florida Gulf Coast, it may be time to consider a major bathroom makeover to ensure the space is safe and senior-friendly. Here are 10 different features to help prevent potential accidents and make the room more comfortable and convenient for older household members:

1. A Curbless, Walk-in Shower

Stepping into the shower can be dangerous for anyone with leg weakness, poor balance, or poor eyesight. Curbless, walk-in showers help mitigate the danger of getting into and out of this enclosed space, especially when the ground is wet and slippery. Additionally, the curbless feature is useful if you or your loved one rely on a walker or wheelchair, or you simply want to plan ahead for that eventual possibility. A gentle slope toward the drain can ensure the water still flows downward and does not spread around the bathroom.

2. Grab Bars

Grab bars give you a surface on which to steady yourself when you are standing up from the toilet, relaxing in the shower, or otherwise moving around your bathroom. If you want to successfully and safely age in place in your Sarasota home, you should consider installing sturdy grab bars in the shower, above the bathtub, and near the toilet. Work with your contractor to ensure the grab bars you select will hold your weight. Typically, standard grab bars can support up to 300 pounds, and they are bolted into the wall. If you’re worried about how this feature will impact the design of your otherwise attractive master bathroom, keep in mind they come in a variety of colors, styles, and materials to match your décor.

3. Non-Slip Floors

Wet, slippery floors are a natural byproduct of the bathroom and the activities that take place there, yet they are extremely hazardous, especially for individuals already struggling with mobility. About 81% of injuries sustained in the bathroom are the result of bad falls. You can help prevent potential injuries by installing non-slip floors during your universal design bathroom remodel in Sarasota. Non-slip vinyl and rubber flooring are increasingly popular flooring options for seniors. Collaborate with your contractor to identify a suitable flooring material for your bathroom that fits your safety priorities, budget, and design style. Textured stone is also a suitable option, or you can apply non-slip paint to a hard floor.

4. A Comfort-Height Toilet

Sitting down on your toilet or getting off can be a challenge for individuals who have weak leg muscles and poor coordination. Some Florida homeowners choose to solve this problem by replacing the old toilet seat with a taller, or higher, toilet seat. Others choose to install a whole new fixture that is about 3 to 5 inches taller than a standard toilet. Both have advantages and disadvantages. A taller toilet seat may be less expensive than a replacement toilet when you’re remodeling your bathroom, but a replacement toilet is often more aesthetically pleasing. If you want to get extra fancy in your upscale bathroom, consider installing a fully automated toilet.

5. Extra Lighting

The bathroom may be a small space, but the shower, toilet, and sink are all separate zones. If the light in the room is inadequate, these zones become dark and shadowy, making accidents more likely and detrimental. Adequate lighting is especially important for seniors who rely on clear visibility to avoid trips and falls. You will want to incorporate a variety of lighting solutions in your bathroom when giving it a universal design. Recessed lighting is popular for use over the shower and toilet, while pendant and wall lighting are better suited for common areas. You can even add motion-activated lights or sensor light switches so you don’t have to fumble for the switch in the dark.

6. Extra-Large Medicine Cabinet

Seniors tend to have a lot of medications, vitamins, and supplements to keep organized. As you get older, navigating a small, cluttered medicine cabinet can become more difficult. An extra-large or extra-deep medicine cabinet is a practical feature to consider for your upcoming bathroom remodel. This will enable you to keep your various medication bottles, toiletries, and other personal accessories hidden away, yet still accessible. It’s also important to consider that your bathroom cabinets may need to be lower than normal, so they can be reached from a wheelchair or from a generally seated position.

7. Built-in Shower Stool

Standing in the shower can become tiring for someone who is not used to being on their feet for long stretches. While a portable shower stool can be useful in a pinch, these stools are movable and thus may not be the most secure type of stool to be used in the bathroom. IN addition to your walk-in shower, consider installing a built-in shower stool that is immobile and secure. This will give you a place to sit comfortably while you’re bathing, or it can be used as a wide, functional shelf for storing personal shower items.

8. Handheld Shower Head

Handheld showerheads make it easy for you to take control of your bathing practices. If you are experiencing mobility problems or use a wheelchair, a handheld showerhead—combined with a shower stool—makes it possible for you to adequately rinse off in the shower without worrying about getting fatigued. Handheld showerheads also are useful when you’re trying to clean out the shower stall. Another option is to install an adjustable showerhead, which can be moved up or down to suit the most comfortable height and position for the specific user, consequently adding accessibility and enhanced function to your bathroom.

9. Lower, Wheelchair-Accessible Sink

Reaching down into a sink to brush your teeth or wash your hands can be difficult to do from a wheelchair, which sits closer to the ground by nature. While you are remodeling your bathroom for long-term use, think about adding a wheelchair-accessible sink for you, your loved one, or friends who may come to visit often. However, in some cases, you want a sink counter that is higher-than-average so you don’t have to bend over or slouch down to reach it. As you evaluate your particular needs, talk with your professional Sarasota remodeler about which option is best for your aging-in-place bathroom. Either way, a sink cabinet adds more stability and storage space than a pedestal sink. You can also add non-slip adhesive strips along the top of your sink area to help with balance.

10. Wider Doorways

If you or any of your frequent visitors use a walker, cane, or wheelchair—or you see this as a possibility in the future—your aging-in-place remodel in Sarasota should involve widening the main doorway into the bathroom, as well as interior doorways between different spaces, such as a closet or the commode area. You can also reverse the direction the door opens if that would help provide adequate clearance. 

In general, you want to ensure your whole bathroom has enough space to move around safely and comfortably, even if you are assisted by a device. Utilize an open concept with enough space for anyone to easily maneuver around the vanity, toilet, bathtub or shower stalls, and other areas. 

How to Pay for Aging in Place Modifications

Remodeling your bathroom in Sarasota to support aging in place is a significant investment. Most bathroom renovations that involve implementing a universal design into the space cost about $25,000 to $40,000. However, if you want a more luxurious space, you could be looking at closer to $75,000 to $125,000. 

Most homeowners pay for their improvement project out of pocket or through various financing options, such as home equity loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), home improvement loans, cash-out refinancing, and even credit cards. However, there may be alternative sources to help you cover the cost of your bathroom remodel in Sarasota if the purpose is to make the space more senior-friendly. A few popular options to look into include: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Grant and Loan program; the FHA Title 1 loan program; Department of Veterans Affairs loans; energy efficiency programs; and Home and Community Based Services through Medicaid.

Aging in Place Remodeling for Your Sarasota Home

Age-in-place features are essential if you want to spend your golden years in your beloved home on the Florida Gulf Coast. Having the right layout and features in your bathroom could save you from an accident in your home while helping you maintain independence into old age. Over the past two decades, Gilbert Design Build has helped hundreds of homeowners install age-in-place features in homes throughout the Sarasota and Bradenton areas. With a comprehensive offering of design-build services, we will work with you to make your bathroom safer and more comfortable for your specific budget.