Universal design encompasses and addresses the needs and abilities of people of all ages. Sometimes referred to as “multi-generational design”, it combines safety and comfort with style and beauty to create an end product that is attractive, versatile and practical. Universal Design principles are especially applicable in the bathroom, a space that even the most able-bodied person can find difficult to navigate at times. By giving careful consideration to space planning, accessibility, security and privacy issues, smart designers can create a bathroom environment that promotes independent living for every member of the household.
Multi-generational design doesn’t mean “institutional” design– it simply means being smart and stylish at the same time. Toward this end, MTI offers a broad selection of bathroom products that will enable household members to avail themselves of the power of water to sustain, heal and renew. With MTI’s design flair, it is possible to incorporate comfort, practicality and a modern sensibility into a bathroom and at the same time accommodate every member of the family with ease and safety.
With increasing numbers of families having more than one generation sharing a roof, it is becoming more important that homes be designed to meet the needs of different age groups. Multi-generational, or universal design is intended to benefit everyone, including the elderly or physically challenged. A universally designed bathroom strives to be accessible and comfortable over an extended period of time for all members of the household. Within the environment of the bathroom, aspects influenced and impacted by this design approach include:
While there are many practical considerations that play an important role in the universal design process, such as safety, space, comfort and ease of use, being “sensible” doesn’t mean that the bathroom has to look utilitarian. Quite to the contrary. Universal design is good design.
Universal Design: A Growing Trend
Universal Design is one of today’s fasted growing trends in the housing industry. Growing numbers of builders are unveiling revamped home designs that include “mother-in-law apartments” or small suites with private entrances, bathrooms and kitchenettes to provide living quarters for extended family members. A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that 62% of the architects sampled said they expect a significant uptick in demand for homes with second master suites. People are planning ahead now and looking for homes that will lend themselves to future demands of the multi-generational lifestyle.
The U.S. Census defines a multi-generational household as one having at least three related people living together who are from three generations. According to government figures, the number of multi-generational households rose 40% over 10 years, from 3 million in 1990 to 4.2 million in 2000. The number of parents over age 65 moving in with adult children increased by 62% between 2000 and 2007. Additionally, an AARP survey indicates that the number of multi-generational households grew from 5 million in 2000 to 6.2 million in 2008.
The reasons behind this growing trend are varied. New immigrants may choose to follow cultural traditions of living with extended family. Rising housing costs make it more economical for families to share housing expenses. Many seniors opt to live with family members instead of living in a retirement center. And finally, middle aged adults find themselves in the “sandwich generation” as they live with and care for both their children and their aging parents. All want a house that will safely and comfortably meet the needs of the entire family as the years go by.
The oldest Baby Boomers celebrated their 65th birthdays in 2011. According to government projections, by 2030 nearly 26% of the U.S. population will be age 65 or older, compared with just 17% today. As the Boomers approach retirement age, they are not only appreciating the need and benefits of multi-generational design, but they are also assessing their own near-future needs.
According to a study by AARP, 89% of 50-year-old-plus Americans intend to remain in their own homes for as long as they possibly can, a phenomenon known as “aging in place”. People want to know that they will be able to live comfortably and independently in their homes. With a little planning, homeowners can make smart choices now that can make all the difference later.
The “aging in place” trend is creating yet another change in the profile of the typical American family. Experts predict that four-generation households will become more common as more Baby Boomers reach maturity and life expectancy increases.
With the current state of the economy, people have begun to think long-term when it comes to their homes. Some people are incorporating Universal Design features in their new homes right from the very beginning. Other people are deciding to stay where they are and remodel their homes because moving to a new house as needs change is no longer a viable option. The bottom line is that homeowners are carefully considering how their purchasing decisions will affect their future.
This trend of “buy once; buy right” applies not only to the design of the house, but also to the quality of the products in the house. Making a wise choice and a smart purchase does not necessarily mean spending less. While cost is a definite consideration, equally important are durability, reliability and security, all of which equate to value. People are looking for quality products that will last a long time and be able to accommodate a wide range of ages and needs.
Universal design as applied to the bathroom is extremely important because of the vital role that the power of water plays in our lives. Bathing is a daily necessity and a critical element in maintaining the health, wellness and appearance of all household members. Given the proper circumstances, bathing can also be a luxurious experience that soothes the spirit and restores the soul. Overall, water has the power to sustain, heal and renew.
Unfortunately, as people age, bathing often becomes a stressful proposition – fraught with insecurity, discomfort, fear and the potential for mishap. Sometimes elderly people even become isolated because they are unable to properly care for themselves and are embarrassed to ask for personal assistance. Some contributing factors include:
When you put all of these factors together, the whole process can become a tedious nuisance, depending on the individual circumstance. As a result, bathing becomes a dreaded and put-off chore, often generating detrimental effects that are apparent physically, emotionally and socially.
Researchers at Yale University conducted a study of an increasing trend known as “persistent bathing disability”, which refers to a person’s inability to wash all parts of his/her body independently. The study concluded that persistent bathing disability can increase an elderly person’s risk of long-term nursing home admission by 77%. However, the study also noted that interventions aimed at prevention and remediation – such as age-appropriate bathroom products – could reduce the need for long-term care.
As our population ages, increasing numbers of families find themselves facing challenges associated with helping an elderly relative bathe with dignity and safety. Designing a bathroom with multi-generational use in mind can make everyone’s life easier, healthier and more enjoyable.
You may want to consult with a professional remodeler who has been certified in the area of universal design by NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry). This qualified professional can help you assess current needs, address future considerations, design the environment and then implement it. Professionals who have been certified by NARI for universal design are designated by UDCR (Universal Design Certified Remodeler) after their names. Click here to find a qualified remodeler who is a member of NARI.
A solid first step in creating a multi-generational design bathroom is to assess as best you can the current and projected needs of the people who will be living in the space. Whether embarking on a new construction or a remodeling project, the design of the space and the selection of product should be a reflection of those who will live in and use the environment.
Depending on the lifestyle and requirements of household members, the options can vary. While new constructions generally include a tub in each secondary bathroom, do bathrooms for teenagers or guests really require tubs? And even though most people think “tub” when planning a remodel for universal design, this may not be the only or best choice.
In designing a bathroom that is truly multi-generational, or universally user-friendly, showers emerge as the “unsung hero” of this endeavor, providing an attractive, versatile and functional solution to the challenge.
Accommodating Shower Systems
Why are showers multi-gen design-friendly? Three good reasons:
The combination of these two factors decreases the amount of time the bather is subjected to the ambient air temperature of the bathroom while unclothed before entering the warmed water environment. This is especially important for a person who has mobility impediments. The time it takes to enter a shower with a modest or zero threshold is much less than the time it takes to navigate over the wall of a tub, and then to lower oneself – or be lowered – into the warmed bathwater.
MTI excels in providing assistance and solutions for all of the areas cited above. MTI’s comprehensive range of shower bases includes over 75 models in various sizes, shapes and materials. Some are constructed of Engineered Solid Stone® material, which is a mixture of ground minerals and high-performance resins that are liquefied, poured and then hardened. The matte surface meets ANSI standards for slip resistance. These “molded stone” bases feature a low-profile, multiple-threshold design for versatile installation, great looks and easy access. These bases are high in both design and function.
Other bases are constructed of cross-linked cast acrylic with strong reinforced backing to eliminate flexing of the floor pan. They are attractive and easy to clean. Some are single threshold, and others are low-profile, multiple threshold, which means that they can be specified from the factory to accept glass enclosures on one, two or three sides. The low-profile design not only presents a very clean look, but it also makes entrance and exit easier. As a standard feature, MTI acrylic shower bases include a slip-resistant textured bottom that meets ASTM F-462-1994 certification requirements for safer showering.
Taking this one step further, if a zero-barrier entrance is desired, the low-profile, multiple threshold bases can easily be recessed in the floor. When used in combination with a teak shower tray, a flat, barrier-free transfer surface is created between bathroom floor and shower.
Another alternative for a zero-barrier entrance are MTI’s Barrier-Free Shower Bases in various sizes, both seated and unseated, made specifically for easy, seamless transfer from bathroom space to shower. Constructed with slip-resistant bottom, the front threshold is a mere 1-3/4″ high, which is designed to be recessed in the floor, creating a flat transfer surface between bathroom floor and shower floor. A special drain design with stainless steel grate cover efficiently drains water to the center.
Complementing MTI’s extensive assortment of shower bases are shower enclosures with a true frameless design and no old-fashioned headers for a clean, uncluttered appearance as well as convenient entry and exit, even for tall persons. Glass doors and panels are constructed of very substantial tempered safety glass. For strength and durability, hardware is made of cast brass and attaches through the glass to ensure security and long-term proper alignment.
Download MTI’s White Paper: MTI White-Paper: Shower or Walk-In Tub.
Click here for information about MTI products that are ADA-compliant for municipal and commercial purposes.
As we have already established, multi-generational or universal design focuses on those who will be living in and using the space. This means that product selection needs to be based on more than aesthetics. Products must match the abilities and meet the requirements of the users.
If a tub is what is needed, desired and preferred for the bathroom, MTI is the comprehensive source, with over 200 available tub models in all sizes, shapes and styles. With MTI design flair, comfort and practicality do not need to be sacrificed when designing a bathroom for multi-generation use. If your specific requirements call for a very shallow tub, MTI has several models that are only 19″ high or less, making entry and exit a more user-friendly and a little less challenging.
There is one tub group of particularly beautiful and clever tub models that need to be highlighted: the Metro Series. The three Metro models are of clean, contemporary design and feature a generously wide front deck of 11″, which serves as a convenient transfer surface. The bather can sit down on the edge and then turn into the tub instead of climbing over the tub wall.
The functionality of this wide deck feature is further extended when the Metro is installed with an available coordinating contemporary tub surround that has been designed just for this model. This handcrafted furniture piece complements the tub and provides additional storage and decorative display space recessed in front under the wide deck area. Matching vanities are available in a variety of sizes to complete the ensemble. The Metro Suite is an outstanding example of how a product can be beautiful and simultaneously serve the needs of many.
MTI also offers additional possibilities for resting places for use with tubs. One tub seat model available is designed for Andrea Series® tubs and the Madelyn 1 tub. Madelyn 1 features flat armrests, and Andrea Series tubs can be specified with armrests at the time of tub ordering. Since the armrests are flat, they serve as an ideal place for the teak tub seat, which provides a convenient resting place when bathing or hand showering.
Shown to the left is a second type of teak tub seat which provides a convenient transfer surface as well as a resting place during hand showering. It mounts to the wall and can be folded up when not in use. Three sizes are available: 32″, 36″ and 42″ widths.
For those who want or need a tub and are challenged by mobility factors, MTI’s new Walk-In Tub can provide a solution. This tub offers a host of features:
MBWI5030 Walk-In tub measures 50.625″ x 30″ x 36″ and is available with a right- or left-hand drain.
Welded steel frame with adjustable leveling “feet”.
MTI offers some unique, innovative products that can offer therapeutic benefit and even pure enjoyment for all members of the household.
The Jentle Ped® is a foot spa that provides the therapeutic benefits of a warm foot bath combined with a relaxing foot massage. While beneficial to all, the elderly especially will appreciate the relief it provides. Contoured ergonomic design, whirlpool jets and a built-in exercise bar for the feet make it as enjoyable as it is remedial. Because of its compact size, MTI Foot Spas may be easily integrated into a universal design plan for a bathroom or for an in-home health spa. Go to Foot Spas.
MTI offers a number of enhancements that can significantly contribute to the comfort and safety of the bathroom environment. Listed below are some of the more popular options.
Grab bars increase safety and security for all family members. Position them strategically in the bathroom, inside and/or outside the tub or shower, or wherever additional stability and assistance may be needed. Available in a variety of sizes, materials and finishes, grab bars are designed to be both decorative and functional. Properly positioned, they are a smart, preventative addition that people of all ages will find helpful. Important: make sure that grab bars are fastened directly to wall studs for safety and security.
Neck pillows available in a variety of shapes, are made of soft, durable vinyl and provide support, comfort and relaxation.
Radiance® Surface Heating System technology uses radiant heat in acrylic bath tubs to warm the interior surface of the bath for neck, shoulders, back and bottom. It provides an even distribution of warmth to eliminate the shock of a cold tub and increases relaxation during the bath. Radiance can also be installed in the seat and floor of seated shower bases.
Virtual Spout is a high-flow tub filler that takes the place of a traditional spout. Not only does it contribute to aesthetics, but it also allows the use of more space in the tub and eliminates a possible source of injury.
Textured Bottom provides a slip-resistant surface and meets ASTM F-462-1994 certification requirements.
With all of the possibilities available for the size and style of the tub, it is easy to lose track of the primary reason for choosing a tub over a shower. Both a tub and a shower are means for cleansing the body and maintaining hygiene, but a tub has the ability to offer hydrotherapy to promote wellness and assist in healing. MTI offers 4 distinct forms of hydrotherapy to meet the varying needs of household members one and all. So as a multi-generational new construction or remodeling project is being planned, it is wise to give thought to the various types of therapy that may be desired or needed in the household.
MTI is one of the few manufacturers to offer this range of hydrotherapy choices over such a large assortment of tub styles, shapes and sizes. Coupled with an extensive array of options, wide product range and intense customization capabilities, MTI is a rich resource for products that will support and facilitate a multi-generational design approach to the bathroom.
Smart design has always been a hallmark of MTI. Recognized with many prestigious awards for design excellence, MTI designs are based on the premise that form must follow function. While style is critical, the design must simultaneously be thoughtful, not allowing versatility and functionality to be sacrificed.
MTI’s product range contains a multitude of offerings that can meet the physical needs of all family members, making MTI products a natural fit for multi-generational households. From low-profile shower bases to easy-entrance tubs, MTI has a wide variety of products, accessories and options that allow all family members to enjoy a bathroom environment that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is universally functional and accommodating.
We hope that the preceding sections have been a source of inspiration and information, offering recommendations and solutions for designing and equipping a multi-generational bathroom. MTI’s smart-design orientation and robust product line make it easy for you to create a bath environment that will work for everyone in the household.