Senior Bathroom Makeover Tips

When updating a bathroom for a senior or older adult, safety is the most critical consideration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falling accidents are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in senior citizens.

A senior bathroom remodel is primarily about increasing safety. The makeover may include non-slip mats, grab bars in the shower, bright lighting, a raised toilet with grab bars, and safe shower seating. It may also include the installation of a walk-in tub or shower.

Completing a senior-friendly bathroom makeover is not just for the senior’s primary residence. Falls frequently occur while visiting family and are preventable by installing safe updates for seniors to use. This article will cover the items needed to complete a senior bathroom makeover.


Grab Bars

A major cause of senior falling accidents is a lack of stability in the bathroom. A senior may lose their balance and reach for a towel bar or the toilet paper holder which could break off the wall. Regular bathroom fixtures do not have the anchor points or sturdiness to function as grab bars.

  • Place a horizontal grab bar in the shower. If the shower is a standard walk-in, place one at elbow-height on the back wall. Place a vertical grab bar at the front of the shower for getting in and out. 
  • If there is no shower seating, a horizontal bar on the shower end wall is sufficient.

Grab bars must be installed by anchoring into wall studs. This will affect grab bar placement to some extent. Never install a grab bar into sheetrock. This could pull out of the wall and cause additional injury.


Non-Slip Rugs

Rugs are not always a good idea to have in a senior bathroom. They make the floor feel warmer, but they are a significant tripping hazard. They can move, bunch up, slip out from underfoot, or catch on walker wheels.

If the senior uses a wheelchair then non-slip low-profile bathroom rugs may work. Check rugs frequently for signs of wear and tear. Look for corners that are rolling up and degradation of backing that may cause the rug to slip.

  • Never use rugs for a senior that uses a walker. Walker legs will bind up on the rugs and increase the chances of a falling accident.
  • Never use rugs that do not have non-slip backing.
  • Use low-profile rugs only.
  • If the senior receives in-home care at showering time, a non-slip rug can be used when getting out of the shower with assistance. This rug should be picked up and hung to dry on a rack rather than staying on the floor creating a trip hazard.

If some sort of rug is necessary because the bathroom floor is slippery, choose a large non-slip mat or carpet rather than multiple small mats that can move. Consider remodeling the bathroom with safer non-slip flooring material.



Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
regulations stipulate that certified bathrooms should have a toilet that is 17 to 19 inches from the floor to the seat. This helps eliminate falls that occur from transitioning from a wheelchair to a toilet. It is much easier for seniors to stand from this higher seated position.

  • An alternative to a compliant toilet is a toilet seat riser. Choose one that bolts on to avoid an accident where the seat slips off of the toilet.
  • Some toilet risers have an attached safety grip. 
  • If the toilet riser does not have an attached safety grip and there is not a grab bar installed within easy reach, then install a toilet safety rail. These can be stand-alone or bolted onto the toilet.

Toilet needs vary by senior, but the basic rule is that the senior should have enough safety grips to transition from a walker or wheelchair to the toilet safely. Toilet rails ensure that the senior can be steady while taking care of hygiene and stand up to transition back to the walker or chair.


Walk-In Showers

The tub or shower is the most difficult fixture for an unsteady senior to use safely. When remodeling a bathroom for use by a senior, an old tub and shower combo has to go. It is too difficult to get in and out safely, even with steps and rails.

  • Install a walk-in shower with a front door lip that is no higher than a half-inch. 
  • ADA requirements state that the shower must be free from obstructions in the front. However, for a home shower remodel a glass door can be installed if desired. This glass door should hang and roll from a runner on the top of the door rather than riding a rail at the bottom. This will leave the bottom free from obstructions.
  • Consider having a walk-in tub and shower combo installed. These units can have therapeutic jets as well, which are great for treating arthritis pain. When installed correctly, the door enables a senior to safely enter the tub unit, then seals water inside for bathing.
  • Choose a shower with a non-slip bottom. 
  • If the shower does not have a non-slip bottom, install non-slip strips on all surfaces that may be stepped on. 

A walk-in shower and tub combo will have controls that are positioned to be within easy reach. For a self-installed walk-in shower, be sure to have controls that can be reached from the shower seat. Also, have a water wand with a long hose and a control valve that can shut the water off or transition it from the wall shower head to the water wand.


Additional Seating

Seating inside a bathroom designed for use by seniors should include a shower chair. This can be a permanently installed shower bench, a mobile shower bench, or a shower chair.

  • Shower seating should not be able to tip. Some permanently installed shower seating can be adjusted for comfort, but it can not fall or tip.
  • Removable shower seating must have wide non-slip feet. Double-check that the chosen chair or bench can not move or tip inside the shower. If it will not work with the shower, then do not use it. Choose a different seat or bench before allowing the senior to use it.
  • Shower seating must be able to drain water away and have a non-slip texture on the seat.

Do not put any other furniture in the bathroom unless there is enough room to safely maneuver around it. Keep towel racks, toilet paper holders, and garbage cans off the floor. This helps to keep the senior safe from tripping.


Senior Bathroom Remodels from Portico

There is a lot to consider when making over a bathroom to suit the needs of an older adult. Luckily, an experienced Charlotte general contractor can help you determine the best safety features that also adhere to your desired bathroom aesthetic.

If you need additional help planning the right senior bathroom makeover, contact the renovation experts at Portico; call us at 704-742-2720 today! Our Charlotte remodelers can provide the professional advice that you need to do the job right.