If you're remodeling your bathroom and you're planning to stay in your house for as long as you can (i.e., you're not planning to sell it at all), you may want to take this time to make changes that let you age in place. Of course the best-case scenario is one in which you remain totally healthy and active no matter your age. However, it's better to install some special features just in case you need them. Plus, many of these changes -- especially made to the shower/tub -- are safety features that benefit you no matter your age or health. Here are four changes to the shower/tub you may want to get to work on right away.
Get Rid of the Tub
This is the most drastic change: removing the tub and installing a roomy shower stall. If the bathroom currently has only a shower stall, look at making the stall bigger. While tubs might seem like a nice thing to have, shower stalls work better in terms of aging in place because you don't have to lift your legs up as high to get in. Shower stalls still usually have a small step, of course, but if you find yourself with limited mobility, it will be much easier to get over that step than to get over the edge of a tub. Making an existing stall bigger is advisable so that you have a section of the stall that won't be under the water's spray.
Add a Shower Seat and Low Handheld Showerhead
Shower seats allow you to sit while bathing, obviously. If you have leg or foot problems, the seat lets you take your weight off your feet and legs, and it also helps if you have balance problems. If you don't have issues that require you to sit, though, the seat can still be helpful if you want to do something like wash your feet without having to bend over or contorting your body to lift your feet up.
Handheld showerheads have become common in many homes, but you may want to install the showerhead so that you don't have to reach up. One option is to have a regular showerhead at the normal height and then a handheld extension placed at waist level. This will make it easier for you to reach the handheld showerhead if you have shoulder problems that make it hard for your to lift your arms above your head.
Install Grips and Rails
From adhesive decals on the floor of the shower to handgrips lining the sides, you have a number of options to help keep you upright and steady in the shower. This is something that, even if you decide you don't want make the other changes, you should do anyway because the risk of slipping in the shower is real, no matter your age or health status.
Install a Built-in Shelf for Shower Items
Don't rely on those caddies you hang on the showerhead pipe to hold your shampoo -- those caddies can slip and create a trip hazard. Instead, install a fixed shelf in the wall of the shower stall that gives you plenty of sturdy surface area on which to put shampoo bottles, soap trays, and other shower goods.
If you want more suggestions, talk to the bathroom remodeling companies like Assurance Remodeling in your city and ask them what changes they've seen people make. Some are easier to make than others, so start a list of what you can do and what else you might want to consider doing.