Every 18 seconds, someone falls in their bathroom. It’s an alarming stat and the potential for serious injury is huge, especially as we age. We Boomers need to take control of our bathroom safety, but what is a designer to do?
First of all, talking bathroom safety is the interior design equivalent of selling long-term care insurance – nobody wants to hear it or discuss it. Safety just isn’t as stimulating a conversation as talk about tiles, mirrors, faucets and more – especially for certain clients who’d rather ignore the issue of aging entirely. But I’ve found if you LEAD with helping a client choose styles and colors (plus slip in some mention of long-term plans to account for aging along the way), you can help lead a client down this all-important safety path.
The result can be a bathroom that is both stylish and safe, a true joy for use by all ages from one to 101 and beyond. Many companies specialize in creating products that help us accomplish just that, meaning the days of a safe bathroom needing to look like a sterile hospital environment are ancient history.
Here are three tips to keep in mind when talking to interior design clients about safety in bathrooms:
- Follow their lead. Let the client set the stage FIRST for what they have in mind, then sneak in a few mentions of planning for the long-term and, of course, for aging. Whether it’s the most comfortable conversation or not, your responsibility is to make sure the client is thrilled with the end result – and planning for aging in place is a HUGE bonus on their investment.
- Delicately mention the elephant in the room. There’s no need to come right out and ask “are you thinking of aging concerns when designing this bathroom?” Instead, bring the subject up more carefully by asking questions like, “how long are you planning on living in this house?” Or, “do you think these improvements will have the desired impact on resale value?” By probing about whether the client is planning to stay or go, you can determine whether aging in place is a concern for them or not.
- Use the right terminology. “Grab bars” are now “handrails,” just as “raised toilet seats” are now “comfort-height toilet seats.” It’s so important to choose words that soften the conversation and put the client at ease any way you can.
As interior designers, we need to embrace this conversation on aging and bathroom safety – particularly with 12,500 Americans turning 50 each and every day. It’s not only profitable, it’s also just the right thing to do. From my experience as a certified aging in place specialist (CAPS), I can assure you that your client will thank you later.