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Blog Series: Home as Partner

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Blog Series: Home as Partner

Architect Susanne Stadler explores options for creating a partner in one’s home, one room at a time.

Throughout the various stages of life our homes are playgrounds, family hubs, gyms, home offices and more. Our homes are also lifelong partners in our wellbeing. But old relationships need to be reinvigorated from time to time to work for us - rethinking a long term routine pays off! This is also true for the relationships we  share with our rooms, our views, our doors, our stairs – in short, our homes. 


In this series we will talk about how we can adapt our homes to our current and future needs so that we can safely live in them for as long as we choose without compromising comfort or delight. 


#1 Bathroom


The bathroom is intimately connected to our well-being. Many falls happen in a bathroom but it takes more than safety bars to keep us safe and medically looking equipment makes us feel defeated instead of beautiful and worthy of attention. 


We tend to forget that it takes a lot of physical strength and nimbleness to take care of our personal hygiene needs. Jane Fonda drives this point home with clarity and humor in a scene from Grace and Frankie where she throws her scarf around a statue in her luxury bathroom to get up from the toilet. 


Credit: Grace and Frankie, Netflix


Here are some suggestions how we can thoughtfully remodel and renew bathrooms so they serve us long term with both functionality and delight .


Bathroom floors are a good place to start. They are mostly tiled. Tiles might be easy to wipe up when wetted, but they serve as awful fall cushions. Short of thinking radically about materials in wet zones such as playground grass, what else could serve as a softer bathroom/shower floor? Vinyl sheet floors are one answer.  Forbo for example has a waterproof product called Eternal Step Acqua which fits the ticket.


A barrier free shower is the dream, but that might require lowering the floor underneath. A more feasible option for you might be a curbless or a low curb shower, which would eliminate the need to step into a tub basin and reduce your risk of falling. A great option is Kohler's low curb shower. If you're looking for some functional and stylish safety bars, try their Choreograph shower series which features storage compartments and grab bars that double as shelves. A softer floor, a curbless shower, something to hold onto when you need to catch your balance transform your shower experience from a scary to a pleasurable undertaking. 


A higher toilet would have made a big difference for Grace, and it will probably make a big difference for you too. Low toilets commonly cause a lot of problems for older adults but luckily there are some quick fixes. There's something called a "toilevator" which is basically a 3" pedestal underneath your normal toilet or there are thick toilet seats which raise the height of the seat.  I am partial to a Japanese toilet, TOTO, but so long as you're not relying on strategically placed sculptures to get up from the toilet, you're in better shape than some.


Swapping your old vanity for a wall hung sink is a wiser choice than you might think. A deeper (7” to 8”) sink with a high faucet allows you to wash your hair without taking a shower and pull up a stool to it.  Something I really appreciated when I was in a cast after I broke my wrist. A beautiful and functional example is produced by Duravit


Think about your bathroom more like a living room. The bathroom is a place for relaxation and self-care, not extreme sports. Give your bathroom a little love and I promise it will treat you better!


 ‘Home as Partner’ by Susanne Stadler, Architect and Executive Director of At Home With Growing Older, an interdisciplinary learning community.

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