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Home / Universal Design / Importance of Universal Design

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:

  • Difficulty or inability to get clothes off and on.
  • Self-consciousness of being exposed.
  • Getting chilled easily.
  • Difficulty getting in and out of the tub or shower.
  • Fear of getting injured.
  • Time-consuming and inconvenient.

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.