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How Shower Panels Can Help Older Adults Age In Place

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Embracing the golden years at home is becoming an increasingly popular choice.

Known as “aging in place,” this option involves modifying one’s home to make it safer and more accessible.

As certified aging in place specialists and occupational therapists, we’re at the forefront of this trend, with our focus being not just on safety, but also on independence and quality of life.

An essential part of this equation is the bathroom, especially the shower area. Here’s how wall panels for the bathroom can significantly aid older adults choosing to age in place.

Understanding the Risks in the Bathroom for Older Adults

Let’s face it, bathrooms are notorious for slips and falls, especially for older adults. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that one in four adults aged 65 and older falls each year, with many of these accidents occurring in the bathroom.

Common culprits include wet and slippery surfaces, and difficult-to-navigate shower areas. To ensure older adults can confidently navigate these spaces, prevention is key.

Shower panels are multi-functional fixtures that consolidate all showering functions into one panel.

The right type of shower panels offer tremendous benefits for older adults. For instance, anti-slip surfaces, easy-to-reach controls, and thermostatic features to control water temperature can be critical in preventing mishaps.

Shower Panels: A Solution for Safer Bathrooms

Shower panels are transforming bathrooms into safer havens for older adults.

At first glance, a shower panel might look like any other bathroom fixture, but it holds the key to a more secure and comfortable showering experience for those choosing to age in place. 

Shower panels, are multi-functional fixtures that bring together all the features of a traditional shower into a single, easy-to-use panel.

They include features like showerheads, handheld sprays, and body jets.

These panels often come in an assortment of materials, such as acrylic, PVC and pressure-laminated vinyl on an MDF core., that are not only durable but also add aesthetic value to the bathroom.

However, the value of shower panels for older adults goes beyond their sleek design.

These fixtures are particularly beneficial for older adults due to their enhanced safety and accessibility features. 

Shower panels often come with non-slip surfaces. This simple feature can be a game-changer in preventing falls, one of the most common and dangerous accidents older adults face in the bathroom. 

Another striking feature of shower panels is their easy-to-reach and simple-to-operate controls.

Many shower panels are equipped with large, easy-to-grasp buttons or levers, making it less of a struggle for those with reduced hand strength due to arthritis or reduced range of motion in the shoulders, to adjust water flow and temperature, thus increasing their independence and quality of life. 

Furthermore, some shower panels are fitted with thermostatic controls.

These clever devices maintain the water temperature at a safe, pre-set level, reducing the risk of scalding – a common concern among seniors with sensitive skin or slower reaction times. also keep in mind that as we age, our skin naturally becomes thinner, making us more susceptible to bruising, skin tears, and scalding.

Additionally, shower panels are typically designed to be wall-mounted at a comfortable height, making them more accessible for seniors.

This eliminates the need to reach up high or bend down low to control the shower, again minimizing the risk of slips or falls.

In essence, shower panels embody the principles of universal design – they’re created to be accessible and safe for everyone, irrespective of age, ability, or circumstance.

As such, they can be instrumental in making bathrooms safer for older adults, contributing significantly to the broader goal of allowing people to age comfortably and independently in their own homes.

Comparing Shower Panels with Traditional Showers 

When we compare shower panels with traditional showers, the former stand out for their accessibility, safety, and ease of maintenance. 

For instance, consider a vibrant 78-year-old who loves her independence.

After installing a shower panel with a handheld shower head, she found her morning showers less daunting and more enjoyable, given that she could easily reach and control the shower settings, washing her body with ease and even from a seated position.

Similarly, an 83-year-old man with arthritis, can benefit greatly from shower panels with easy-to-use large buttons for temperature and flow controls.

They will allow him to shower independently without struggling with small, hard-to-turn knobs of traditional showers. In summary, installing bathroom features that will increase ease of use will always benefit its users, regardless of their age or abilities.

When evaluating bathroom modifications to promote safer aging in place, it’s essential to compare shower panels with traditional showers.

Understanding the difference can help highlight why shower panels are becoming an increasingly preferred choice for seniors.

Safety is a vital factor. Traditional showers can have hot spots and cold spots, leading to sudden temperature changes that could cause discomfort or even injury to older adults with sensitive skin.

In contrast, many shower panels feature thermostatic controls that maintain a steady, safe temperature, thus preventing scalding.

Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, the surface of shower panels is often designed to be non-slip, a feature that can significantly reduce the risk of falls.

When it comes to maintenance, shower panels have a clear advantage.

Traditional showers, with their separate fixtures, can be difficult to clean and maintain, especially for seniors.

Shower panels, being a single unit, are easier to clean and typically designed to resist limescale buildup, making them more user-friendly and less of a burden for seniors to maintain, as compared to a tile surround.

In conclusion, when we compare shower panels with traditional showers in terms of accessibility, safety, and maintenance, shower panels emerge as a superior option, particularly for older adults aiming to age in place comfortably and safely.

Choosing the Right Shower Panels for Older Adults

Choosing the right shower panel is a significant step towards ensuring a safer bathroom for older adults. It’s not a one-size-fits-all decision; it’s crucial to consider individual needs, comfort, and safety when making this choice. Here are some key considerations:

Anti-Slip Materials

A slip in the shower can be dangerous for anyone, but particularly so for older adults. When choosing a shower panel, look for ones that feature non-slip materials and texture. These can significantly reduce the risk of accidents, providing a safer showering experience.

Easy-to-Use Controls

Some older adults may struggle with small, hard-to-reach, or complex controls due to decreased mobility, dexterity, or low vision. Shower panels with easy-to-use, large, and clearly marked controls can make adjusting the water flow and temperature easier and safer to use.

Height of the Panel

The height of the shower panel is another crucial consideration. It should be installed at a comfortable height, eliminating the need to reach up or bend down. This not only contributes to safety but also ensures an easier, more enjoyable showering experience.

Thermostatic Controls

Sudden changes in water temperature can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. Shower panels with thermostatic controls maintain a constant water temperature, preventing accidental scalding. This feature is particularly beneficial for seniors with sensitive skin or slower reaction times.

Low-Maintenance Design

Finally, shower panels should be low-maintenance. Older people shouldn’t have to worry about complicated cleaning procedures or hard-to-reach spots, actually no one should.

I know that I don’t have time for that. A shower panel with a simple, easy-to-clean design will make maintenance less of a chore.

Let’s use the example of an 85-year-old woman with arthritis and decreased hand strength living alone.

When choosing a shower panel, prioritizing easy-to-use controls and a low-maintenance design, will not only make her daily showers easier but will also give her a sense of independence and confidence in her ability to maintain her own bathroom.

In summary, the choice of the right shower panel should be guided by the unique needs and safety considerations of each individual.

Remember, the goal is not just to create a safer bathroom, but also to enhance the quality of life for older adults choosing to age in place.

The Role of Occupational Therapists and Certified Aging in Place Specialists

This is where occupational therapists and certified aging in place specialists can step in, offering expert advice and training on the safe use of shower panels.

These professionals offer a tailored approach, customizing each bathroom to suit individual needs. 

Let’s take an older person with poor vision.

His occupational therapist suggested a shower panel with bright, contrasting colors for controls, making it easier for him to adjust settings without strain.

Where Should Wall Panels be Used and Not be Used?

Wall panels, while often a convenient and aesthetic solution for many spaces, are not ideal for every situation. Here are a few examples where wall panels might not be the best choice:

1. Highly humid areas: Unless specifically designed for moisture resistance, wall panels may not hold up well in areas with high humidity, such as saunas or indoor pool rooms. The moisture can warp or damage the panels over time, leading to an unsightly appearance and potential structural issues.

2. Uneven surfaces: Wall panels need a flat, stable surface for proper installation. If the underlying wall is uneven or unstable, it can result in an improper fit and reduce the lifespan of the panels.

3. Structures with significant settling or movement: Buildings that are still settling or that have frequent movement might not be the best places for wall panels. The movement could cause the panels to crack or become dislodged over time.

4. Historical renovations: In historic buildings where original architecture should be preserved, wall panels may not be the best choice. They can cover up original features of the building, reducing its historic value.

5. Areas requiring regular inspection: In places where walls need to be inspected regularly for damage or infestation, wall panels might not be the best option. They can make accessing the original wall for inspection more difficult.

6. Places with strict fire codes: Not all wall panels are made from fire-resistant materials. In locations with strict fire codes, such as commercial kitchens or industrial sites, these types of panels might not be suitable unless they are specifically rated for fire resistance.

It’s always essential to consider the specific requirements and conditions of a space before deciding on using wall panels.

Consultation with a professional can ensure the correct materials are used to fit the needs of the space.

Wrapping Up: The Benefits of Shower Panels for Older Adults Aging in Place

In conclusion, shower panels for the bathroom have shown significant potential in enhancing the safety, independence, and quality of life for older adults choosing to age in place.

They bridge the gap between functionality and safety, turning the once-dreaded task of showering into a secure, enjoyable experience.

So, for anyone looking to age gracefully and safely at home, why not consider a shower panel for your bathroom?

Remember, professionals are ready to guide you through this process, making your golden years at home safe, comfortable, and independent.

If you are considering remodeling or making modifications to your bathroom in order to age in place, I can help you. Please email me at homedesignsforlife@gmail.com or call me at 352-281-6681.

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