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How Baby Boomers are Influencing Design

5/2/2014 4:00:00 PM
Article by Holly Berecz


With Baby Boomers hitting retirement age, they're preparing to "age in place." They're also predicted to spend $20 to $25 billion dollars on home remodeling projects, such as this retrofitted bathroom in Napa, CA by JS Design & Build.

Part 1: Baths for Boomers

The oldest wave of Baby Boomers, the 77 million people born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1964, began turning 65 in 2011. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), by 2015, those aged 50 and older will represent 45-percent of the U.S. population. Baby Boomers are known for treasuring their independence. They’re also known to take great pride in the appearance of their homes. So, as they age, they're beginning to prepare their homes for when they have limited mobility and the increased challenges that come along with getting older. In other words, they're getting ready to "age in place."

Rooms like the kitchen and bath can pose very unique challenges as we age. And you're, no doubt, already experiencing this wave of unique demands in your business, as your clients come to you for remodeling ideas that will help them continue to enjoy their homes as they grow older. Here, we'll take a look at some of the most unique and helpful products you can incorporate into your Baby Boomer bath remodel projects to help ensure ease of use and greater mobility.

It's a fact of life that as we age, navigating the bathroom can be come more of a challenge. Water from bathing and showering can cause slips and falls, and balance can be an issue when using the toilet or getting in and out of the shower or bath. Statistically, more accidents occur in the bathroom than in any other place in the home. You know all about planning larger bath spaces, but navigating the seemingly unlimited number of products in the marketplace aimed at the aging in place can be tricky. Here are a few key areas to focus on, along with the best products that help address specific needs.

Cabinetry

Cabinetry sets the tone for any bathroom, and it's no different for Baby Boomers who want to age in place. They demand ease of use and functionality, but they are not willing to sacrifice style. A wall-mounted vanity with plenty of room for a wheel chair to roll under is a fantastic choice. The Escale® vanity and sink combo by Kohler, for example, bring a sleek modern look to the bath while leaving plenty of space to maneuver underneath. The carved grooves in this wood vanity create a distinctive appearance, and its slow-close drawer offers a convenient and subtle storage option that's easily within reach.


The Escale 48" vanity top and basin. www.kohler.com

Faucets

Turning and twisting a traditional faucet handle can be a real challenge for those with even slightly limited mobility. For those with arthritis or other complications, it can be downright painful and impossible. Lever handle faucets are far easier to use, and changing out a faucet to a lever style is one of the simplest things you can do to make the bathroom more accessible. Moen's Brantford faucet is both easy on the eyes and easy to use. A tapered spout and global finial give it universal appeal, and its classic lever handle makes it simple to turn on and adjust the water. Coupled with an Oil Rubbed Bronze finish, it gives any bath a polished, traditional look that transcends time.


Moen's Brantford one-handle low arc bathroom faucet in Oil Rubbed Bronze.

The Toilet

When it comes to the toilet, the proper height can make all the difference, and it’s truly an individual situation. Work with your client to discover what is preferred. Their height and individual needs will help you select the proper product. Remember that it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” fix. Consider suggesting a toilet/bidet combination. If you’re replacing the toilet anyway, this could be a wonderful solution for aiding in personal hygiene. Toto’s Neorest® series offers some stellar solutions. The 700H Dual Flush Toilet, for instance, is engineered to provide the user with an unrivaled level of comfort. The ewater+ technology keeps the bowl clean while the WonderwaveSpray and warm-air dryer offer hands-free cleansing. Its skirted design is easy to clean, plus the ultra high efficiency toilet comes with a remote control, night-light, hands-free flushing, and automatic open/close lid features.


Toto’s Neorest® Dual Flush Toilet

Showers

Since conventional wall-mounted showerheads are fixed, the user has to move around to meet the flow of the water. This can be more difficult to do as we age. Handshowers can go a long way in improving the bathing experience. They help direct the flow of water to exactly where it’s needed, whether sitting or standing. Plus, they can be mounted on an adjustable sidebar for hands-free use. Grohe’s Rainshower® Next Generation Eco hand shower is a unique choice. Its design was inspired by a simple consumer insight: “from above, the human body is not round.” The elongated shape of the spray face mirrors the shape of the body, plus it comes with DreamSpray® technology for even and efficient water distribution. The environmentally conscious consumer can simply activate the Eco button to use even less water.


Grohe’s Rainshower® Next Generation Eco hand shower

Thermostatic Valves

We've all felt the sudden increase or decrease in water temperature in the shower when someone flushes or turns on the dishwasher. For those with limited movement, this can lead to scalding and exceptionally dangerous situations.

Thermostatic valve technology has come a long way and can be a real benefit for anyone whose limited mobility prevents him or her from quickly moving from the water’s path. Styletherm from California Faucets is one product that helps guard against unexpected water temperature fluctuation. Available at the price point of more economical pressure balance systems, Styletherm offers the ability to dial in exact temperatures. It requires no diverter valve to toggle between showerheads and handheld showers, plus it includes a safety temperature override button and comes in a variety of styles, from traditional to contemporary.


Camarillo Styletherm (trim only) with Dual Volume Control from California Faucets.

Shower Systems

The most accessible option for a shower is one with a curbless entry and a door or opening at least 36-inches wide. This allows a wheelchair to easily fit, plus gives those who walk in lots of room to move around. Sterling Plumbing offers a neat product that’s designed to evolve with the changing needs as we age. The Accord® Seated Shower comes in a choice of sizes. All are made with factory-installed backerboards so that you can install shower grab bars when they’re needed. It sports a wide, removable bench that you can position on either end of the shower or even remove all together.


The Accord® Seated Shower from Sterling Plumbing. Bathtubs

If a relaxing bath is preferred, there are still plenty of options that offer increased ease and comfort. Standard bathtubs can pose a real safety hazard for those who wish to age in place. But there are products available that offer a safer way to get in and out of the tub. One example is Kohler’s Elevance® Rising Wall tub. Available in a selection of sizes, the tub has a side wall that can be easily raised once the user is comfortable in the chair-height seat. An integrated waterfall fills the tub in under five minutes and a dual drain system empties it in less than two minutes. A ledge on the back wall allows for easy reach of an optional handshower and a footwell lets the user easily test the water temperature as well as recline.


Kohler’s Elevance® Rising Wall tub.

Grab Bars

Handrails and Grab Bars are essential in any bathroom whose users have limited mobility. And now that they’re a regular part of a bathroom’s function, manufacturers are starting to make them more stylish and less institutional, designed to blend in with the overall style of the room instead of stick out like a sore thumb. The chic and stylish Pismo Grab Bar from PlumbingSupply.com proves that grab bars can be graceful and decorative while still providing stability and security. Not to mention, this beautifully curved design includes a built-in, easy-to-reach-and-reload toilet paper holder.


The Pismo Grab Bar with built in toilet tissue holder.

Remember that a properly planned bathroom focused on ease and comfort can make a significant difference for Baby Boomers, as they grow older. Using the right products can go a long way in retaining their independence and quality of life. Next month, we’ll examine the latest products and design ideas that improve the function of the many tasks performed in the kitchen. Meanwhile, to read more on the topic, check out these online articles:

NAHB Aging in Place checklist

Safe Showering for All Generations

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