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SOCIAL HOUSING 45 NEW AGE BATHROOMS


Martin Walker of Methven UK considers the role played by technology and design in the creation of usable bathrooms for the country’s ageing population.


hanks to better healthcare and advancements in technology, the UK’s population is living longer. While this is of course a positive development, it also presents bathroom manufacturers and designers of new-build social housing with a series of new challenges to address. More than 11 million people are now aged over 65, with one in three of us aged 55 and over, so it is vital that society is prepared to meet the needs of the elderly.


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In a recent survey about housing options for the elderly conducted by Shelter, more than 50 per cent of respondents believed their current bathrooms required modification in order to make them more accessible and easy to use. This need for change is also supported by recent NHS statistics, which revealed that it spends £16m each year on treating elderly patients for injuries related to falls in and around baths.


The Foundation for Lifetime Homes and Neighbourhoods identified bathrooms as a key area in need of


future-proofed design, to allow for the accommodation of all ages and abilities. Along with urging the bathroom industry – including specifiers, installers and manufacturers – to support inclusive living, there is still much more to be done. To address this, members of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA) have taken the initiative and are trying to tackle the challenges facing the ageing population and aid members in making their own commercial decisions. Manufacturers are working hard to develop products that improve safety and accessibility, and help create bathroom spaces which are usable for the duration of a person’s life. Product enhancements such as longer, more ergonomically designed, or even looped lever handles, can make showers and taps easier to operate, making a positive impact on the overall bathroom experience. Similarly, new taps which feature clearer markings and instructions mean that those operating them can identify which is hot and which is cold more easily.


THE NHS SPENDS £16M EACH YEAR ON TREATING ELDERLY PATIENTS FOR INJURIES RELATED TO FALLS IN AND AROUND BATHS


While design is important, so too is the development of new technologies. Often, the needs of the ageing population are dismissed simply as mobility challenges which can be resolved by installing walk-in showers or baths. While providing some assistance, these methods fail to address many of the more serious issues the elderly face in the bathroom. Showering, for instance, presents a much greater set of challenges. Temperature, flow and spray pattern can all impact upon an older person’s showering experience, and these considerations have


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