Baby boomers are growing older, putting off retirement to continue in the work force, living longer and choosing to stay in their own homes as they age.
Because of this self-sufficiency, interior designers, architects and manufacturers have come up with new ways to assist those aging in their homes with decorative bath and shower grab bars, high-rise toilets and hands-free faucets, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors.
Function, comfort and design have no age limit.
“In the last five years, baby boomers have started to understand how important aging is,” said Melanie Horn Mallers, professor of gerontology at California State University, Long Beach. “They don’t want to be called old and they don’t want to live in the traditional nursing home or assisted-living facility. They want to live in the comforts of their own home with pride, control and dignity. The good thing is that boomers are talking about these issues and willing to ask questions as they know this is crucial to enhancing their quality of life.”
Larry Brodey, president of JACLO, a company that manufactures a line of decorative grab bars, said homeowners know that the home that serves them when they are healthy may not take care of them when they break a leg, hurt their back or just can’t move as easily as they once did.
“People understand they need homes that will age with them,” he said. “JACLO has created luxury grab bars that come in a variety of lengths and finishes and even styles to meet pre-existing fixtures. The bars can be outfitted with an adjustable hand shower that allows the user to sit on a bench or wheelchair to achieve a comfortable bathing experience. Keep in mind that as a person gets older, their skin gets thinner and a hand shower creates a more gentle wash. It’s just as efficient as a regular showerhead and has all the proper settings, including height adjustments from 12 inches to 6 feet.”
Brodey said all bath and shower equipment complies to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and is designed with a focus on human ergonomics. Most bars can handle as much as 400 pounds.
While grab bars are the most popular product, other equipment includes raised toilets, hands-free faucets, levers that replace door knobs, lower cabinet heights and rugs that can be secured to the floor. These “aging in place” products are crucial not only to homeowners, but caregivers or family members who have frequent visits from older relatives and friends might want to have them installed in their homes as well.
Cindy Sermeno, a sales consultant at Ferguson Bath Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, displays a variety of products at her store located at South Grand Canyon Drive and West Flamingo Road. She suggests that grab bars also can be used along hallways as a type of rail system, while faucets with levers (instead of round handles) allow the user to activate them with the wrist or elbow. The same levers can be applied to doors.
“Another popular item is the toilet,” said Sermeno. “The standard toilet is 14 inches high and our Comfort Height toilets are 2 inches higher which makes it easier to sit and stand. There are also sinks that mount to the wall so a person in a wheelchair can slide in and use it.
“And until you’re at that point in your life, you can’t realize how important this is to someone who has trouble bending or standing or is just physically challenged.”
The aging-in-home concept also can be brought into the kitchen. Sermeno said there are ADA-compliant dishwashers that open at the right height to place or remove dishes. Other products include height-adjustable tables, wall units that lower to load plates and platters, elevated work stations and accessible corner storage units. The products are not just for the disabled, but for anyone who is not as nimble or coordinated as they once were.
“Being able to decide where you want to live enhances dignity and maximizes self fulfillment,” Sermeno said. “Boomers want their home to be functional so that they don’t feel dependent on others. There is no doubt that the market will keep up with their needs.”