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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2008

Smart Bath and Kitchen Redesigns for Boomers Aging in Place

(ARA) - Accessibility and safety are key issues for baby boomers looking forward to staying in their homes as they age. Increasingly, today's consumers are addressing these issues in two of the home's most-used and most accident-prone rooms -- the kitchen and the bathroom.

"Bathrooms can present the greatest accessibility challenges for seniors," says Mark Orr, a bath remodeling expert with Bath Fitter. "Boomers are looking to make their bathrooms as convenient and safe as possible for their Golden Years."

Many boomers and seniors are opting to convert their tubs into showers for improved accessibility. "Stepping into or out of a tub can be a high-risk proposition for elders," Orr says. A typical tub requires seniors to raise their legs at least 16 inches to step over the tub wall. Showers require only a 6- or 7-inch step-over.

"With access made easier, showers are safer," Orr says. "When Bath Fitter converts a tub into a shower, the new fixture is spacious. You have plenty of room to move around, and ample space to install other safety-enhancing features, like grab bars and seats."

Still-working boomers also appreciate the convenience of a shower, which matches their fast-paced lifestyles, provides a quick and comforting spray and minimizes water usage.

Elsewhere in the bathroom, other basic upgrades can greatly improve safety. Install grip bars near the toilet. Use nonslip flooring materials or skid-resistant bath mats. Avoid all-white baths, as the lack of color contrast can make it harder for aging eyes to see safely.

It's also important to address accessibility and safety in the kitchen, the room where most of us spend the greatest amount of our at-home time. As seniors age, using the kitchen can become a challenge.

Arthritis may make it difficult to open drawers, cabinets and pantry doors. Small knobs or u-shaped handles can be difficult for seniors to grasp. Larger cabinet hardware and lever-style door handles can make life easier.

Lighting and color contrast are also issues in the kitchen. Under-cabinet lighting, that puts light directly on the countertop work surface, can help elders safely perform cooking chores. Since spills can be common in the kitchen, floors should be made from nonslip surfaces. Avoid naturally slick flooring like ceramic tile.

Appliances also should be considered. Gas ranges can potentially be a hazard if an elder inadvertently leaves a burner on low flame or it remains on just enough to release gas without a flame. Electric stoves with elements that continue to glow until the surface is completely cooled can provide a visual danger cue.

From the bathroom to kitchen, boomers are finding ways to upgrade their homes and ensure they can stay in them for many years to come. Courtesy of ARAcontent

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