Aging in Place Bathroom Design Ideas

Looking for safe updates to make to your bathroom? Read and learn about aging in place bathroom design ideas you can implement now.

Retirement + Aging in Place
September 10, 2022
Aging in Place Bathroom Design Ideas

As you age, your body changes. Everyday tasks you once performed easily can become a little more out of reach. Formerly comfortable surroundings can suddenly seem to be danger zones, where your safety is put at risk. There are few rooms in your home where the risks are greater than the bathroom. This is where critical aging in place resources come into play.

If maintaining your independence means making your home more accessible according to your changing needs and abilities, having a home maintenance checklist and knowing a few aging in place bathroom design tips can help keep your loved ones safe. 

To that end, here are eight ways you can remake a bathroom for the golden years. 

#1 Tune Up The Tub and Shower

For any older adult, the bathtub can be a big bathroom hazard. Impaired mobility, balance issues, and a range of age-associated medical conditions like weakened joints and arthritis can all make getting in, bathing, and getting out of the bathtub dangerous.

In fact, of the three million people over the age of 65 who are treated for fall-related injuries each year, 80% sustained their injuries in the bathroom.1

Fortunately, there are several aging in place bathroom design solutions that can make bathing  safer. When it comes to making the tub accessible, consider options like: 

  • Curbless shower – Curbless showers are an excellent bathroom safety solution for older adults, especially those who use wheelchairs.2 These showers eliminate entry barriers so they can walk or wheel themselves in without having to step over high tub sides or lips.
  • Walk-in tub – These senior-safe tubs are equipped with doors that open for entry and seal tight when they’re closed so that no water escapes.2 These tubs also feature accessible seating so that bathtime is safe and comfortable.
  • Transfer bench – If you’re looking for a safety solution that doesn’t require large-scale modifications to the bathroom, a transfer bench is an option.3 Essentially, they’re benches that fit over the side of the tub so that an older person can slide over the edge rather than step or climb over it. 
  • Shower chairs and tub benches – A safe, comfortable place to sit in the tub or shower helps prevent slips and falls from water or imbalance.
  • Bath chairlift – Chairlifts are often battery-powered devices that allow the user to sit down while they’re safely and slowly lowered into the bathtub, preventing falls that can occur from trying to sit or stand.3

#2 Level Up Your Toilet

Age-related mobility issues can make sitting down and getting up from the toilet very difficult. Most standard toilets range in height from 15 inches from the floor to the seat to 19 inches, although a vast majority are shorter than 17 inches.4 

But the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) suggests that 17 to 19 inches is the optimal toilet height for people with accessibility issues.5That means that your toilet is probably in need of a redesign.

There are two ways of improving toilet accessibility:

  • Install an accessible toilet – Although standard toilets aren’t designed for accessibility, you can purchase and install an ADA-compliant toilet.2 
  • Raise the seat –  A simple toilet add-on can make using the toilet safer for older adults. These add-ons attach to the toilet seat, providing a higher perch.

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#3 A More Accessible Vanity

Although the bathtub and the toilet might be more obvious considerations when it comes to aging in place home modifications and bathroom design, the sink and vanity counter can pose difficulties as well. This is especially true if an older adult uses a wheelchair. 

Most bathroom sinks and vanities are designed with closed bottom sections, often with drawers or cabinets beneath the sink. This is great for bathroom storage but not so great for accessibility, as it can prevent people in wheelchairs from getting close enough to use the sink.

If a vanity redesign is in order, be sure to:2

  • Lower the counter – Most vanity counters are not designed to be used from a sitting position, so you’ll likely need to bring it down a few inches to accommodate someone who uses a wheelchair. Everything should be within easy reach, from the front of the counter to the back. This might also mean reconsidering medicine cabinets and other high storage.
  • Open the bottom – To get close enough to the sink to use it, the sink needs to offer space below for the legs to go. Be sure to open the space up.

#4 Slip-Proof the Place 

It’s no secret that bathrooms can become very slippery places. Understandably, if your mobility and balance are already compromised, a wet floor and slick surface can spell disaster. Even a minor slip or fall can result in serious injuries. 

That’s why limiting the likelihood of slip and fall injuries is such a crucial aspect of aging in place bathroom design. Common solutions include: 

  • Non-slip floors – Some tile materials, like marble, can get quite slick from even the tiniest bit of water. Be smart about flooring in the residential bathroom by opting for more slip-resistant tiles like ceramic or porcelain tiles with matte or textured finishes, natural stone floors, or natural cement tiles6
  • Non-slip mats and rugs – If new flooring isn’t an option, consider non-slip mats and rugs. These can help keep floors from getting wet and provide safe, walkable surfaces. However, be sure to buy thinner styles that won’t bunch-up to and become tripping hazards2

#5 Grab Bars

One of the simplest options for aging in place bathroom design is installing grab bars or rails. These are sturdy, easily graspable bars you can install almost anywhere in your bathroom, from the tub and shower to the walls near the toilet and sink. 

Grab bars can help with:

  • Sitting down
  • Standing
  • Balance 

#6 Wider Doorways

The ADA recommends doorways of at least 32 inches in width to accommodate people who use wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility aids. Unfortunately, the average width of home interior doors is between 24-36 inches, with many coming in on the narrower end of that range.

If your doorway isn’t wide enough to be accessible, your aging in place bathroom design plans may need to include widening the door. But if an overhaul of that scale isn’t in the cards, you may be able to gain more space by:

  • Reversing the door hinges – Sometimes, reversing the direction that your door opens in can free up more space.
  • Change the door style – Switching out your standard door for a more size-efficient style, like pocket doors or sliding barn doors, can optimize space and make bathroom entry easier. 

#7 Let There Be Light

Lighting is highly important when it comes to aging in place bathroom design. The correct lighting is necessary to promote visibility but also to reduce the risk of vision impairment that can come from improper lighting. It’s also important to consider how easy it is to change the light bulbs in your bathroom.

Here’s what to keep in mind when it comes to creating a safe and accessible bathroom lighting scheme:7 

  • Reduce glare – With so many metal and ceramic surfaces that reflect light, it’s important to avoid glare that can impair vision. Being considerate about light placement, installing dimmer switches, and combining ambient lighting with task lighting can help.
  • Brighter is not necessarily better – It might seem counterintuitive, but super bright lighting isn’t always safest for seniors. It can increase the amount of glare on reflective surfaces and impair vision. For that reason, opt for lower-wattage bulbs as well as opaque or frosted bulbs. Looking for ways to optimize natural light is also recommended.
  • Keep sockets accessible – It’s important to keep light bulb sockets within easy reach. They should be low enough that step-stools or ladders are not necessary to change the bulbs when they go out. 

#8 Accessibility Accessories

There are many accessories available to  improve your aging in place bathroom design that don’t involve redoing your bathroom floor, remodeling your shower, or reconceptualizing your lighting scheme. Just like installing grab rails, they’re simple solutions that can make a world of difference.

When you’re thinking of ways to make a more senior-friendly bathroom, consider options such as:

  • Detachable shower heads – Easily removable shower heads can improve shower time safety. If balance is an issue, a detachable shower head can make sitting in the shower easier without sacrificing a thorough clean.8 
  • Lever faucets – Arthritis and other joint issues can make twisting and turning faucets knobs difficult and painful. Lever faucets are the obvious solution, making turning the water on and off as easy as flipping a switch.8 
  • Commode chair – Commode chairs are set at a safer height than the standard toilet and have grippers and rails for additional safety.

Truehold: For Ongoing Independence 

Redesigning you or your loved one’s bathroom can go a long way to staying in the home and community you’ve loved for all these years. That said, making aging in place design changes can be costly. Don’t let your finances stand in the way of turning your bathroom into a safe senior friendly bathroom and usable space. 

That’s where Truehold comes in. Our sale-leaseback program is the smartest financial solution for older adults who want to continue living-in-place. It’s a way for you to access your home’s equity and use it to make your home safer for you. 

Interested in learning more? Get your Sale-Leaseback info kit today.


1. Senior Safety Advice. How To Make a Bathtub Safe for The Elderly. 

2. Aging In Place. What To Do When You Redo Your Bathroom. 

3. My Caring Plan. Best Tub Transfer Benches for Seniors. 

3. Senior Advisor. 5 Alternatives to Walk-In Tubs. 

4. Kohls. Toilets Guide: Design.

5. Elder Guru. Selecting the Proper Toilet Height for Seniors.

6. Houzz. The Best Anti-Slip Floors for Your Bathroom. 

7. Ella Stewart Care. Bathroom Lighting for Aging in Place by Room. 

8. The Senior List. 7 Options for Senior Friendly Bathrooms. 

Lisa Carson headshot
Written by
Lisa Carson
OTD, OTR/L, CMC, Director of Care at Truehold
Dr. Carson is the Care Director at Truehold. She brings together recent trends in aging research and direct feedback from the customers we serve to build products and services that help people live easier at home. She also leads the Truehold Care & Service team, which aims to advocate for residents and ensure that their experience living at home is safe and enjoyable. Her care management team provides residents with access to resources and information at any time.
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