The bathroom can be a scary place for adults as they age. Older adults slip and fall in the bathroom at a higher rate than any other room in the home. And, the fear of falling in the shower or while at the sink is a real worry for older adults that often adds another layer of stress on top of the already-challenging task of washing or bathing.
These fears are, unfortunately, well justified. One in three people over age 65 fall each year and most of these accidents happen in the bathroom. As aging-in-place builders and designers, we need to do everything we can to reduce the physical and emotional dangers an unsafe bathroom poses for the aging-in-place adult and find ways to prevent falls.
The bathroom flooring products you choose during your renovation are your first line of defense against avoidable accidents. There are many great flooring materials out there for aging-in-place as well as other flooring products you can add to your renovated bathroom to make the floor as slip-resistant as possible.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the best flooring products for the aging-in-place bathroom. Each one will help make the bathroom floor safer and empower your parent to confidently age in place.
First, you need to start with a solid base. The flooring material you choose for your aging-in-place bathroom is one of the most important renovation choices you’ll make.
There are several good floor material choices out there, each with its pros and cons. For my aging-in-place bathroom renovations, slip-resistant vinyl is, by far, the material I use most often.
Slip-Resistant Vinyl is One of the Safest Flooring Choices for the Aging-in-Place Bathroom
Adhesive floor tiles and planks were once a poor quality flooring choice. Many were difficult to install well and the lack of quality showed. Today, vinyl adhesives have improved significantly. They come in what seems like an infinite number of styles and quite a few sizes. Vinyl can mimic the look of wood, ceramic, concrete, and more, giving you a good amount of design freedom.
Finding slip-resistant vinyl options has become a lot easier. Vinyl is also one of the least expensive flooring choices per square foot. So, you’re getting a floor that protects against slips and falls and is budget-friendly. You can’t ask for more than that.
Here are two slip-resistant vinyl floor options to keep your aging-in-place bathroom floor safe and look good.
These floor planks from CO-Z are waterproof, damp-proof, and mold-resistant. In other words, they were pretty much made to handle the demands of the aging-in-place bathroom. The biggest threat to safety in the bathroom is water on the floor. As much as you try to keep the floor dry, wet floors are inevitable from time-to-time. These vinyl planks can handle a little water without the risk of serious damage. And, their slip-resistant feature will mitigate some of the danger water can cause.
Luxury vinyl planks tend to be the most durable of the vinyl options out there. Rather than laying a tile or sheet vinyl with adhesive, these planks lock into place and float on the floor. This floor from Diflart is not only waterproof and slip-resistant, but it’s also shock-absorbing and comfortable to walk on. All of these features add up to a floor that’s ideally made for the needs of an older adult. Click-locking planks are easy to install as well, so they make for a pretty easy weekend DIY project.
I recently dedicated an entire article to flooring with tips on what to consider when searching for the best floor for your aging-in-place home. You can read the article, “How to Find Flooring That’s Safe, Inexpensive, and Easy to Install for Aging in Place,” to learn more about vinyl and some other excellent flooring options to create a safe bathroom for an older adult.
Once you have a solid foundation with a good slip-resistant bathroom floor, you can add other flooring products to your aging-in-place bathroom to further reduce the risk of slips, falls and other accidents.
Floor mats are tricky in aging-in-place homes. The intention of adding a floor mat to the bathroom is to reduce slipping on a wet floor. However, use caution. By resolving one problem you don’t want to invite another by creating a tripping hazard. Aging-in-place floor mats need to be low-pile. A shag-style mat is not going to cut it. Also, make sure the mat you choose is slip-resistant with a rubber backing. When an older adult steps onto a bath mat, it should not move or slide forward.
These low-pile, low-profile floor mats will work well in your aging-in-place bathroom.
This is one of the best low-profile, non-slip bath mats I’ve found for aging-in-place. The mesh edges of the mat are nearly flush with the floor and slowly rise up to the low-pile fibers. The entire mat is waterproof and moisture-resistant, plus it’s non-slip and comfortable to stand on. At 35” X 23”, it’s a great size for right in front of your tub or shower, giving an older adult plenty of space to step out of the shower without risking a slip or fall.
It doesn’t get more low-profile than this bathroom floor mat set. And, that’s great when you’re creating the safest possible bathroom for aging-in-place. These mats have a thickness equal to laying a bath towel down on the floor, yet they’re made with high-quality cotton yarn so they’re still soft and comfortable. I like this style bath mat because there’s virtually nothing to trip over. They’re one of the safest mats you can buy for an older adult aging in place.
I’m always on the lookout for simple products that make floors safer in an aging-in-place home. This is one of those products that I take with me to every bathroom I renovate. This non-slip rug pad from Gorilla Grip keeps rugs in place, even woven cotton rugs with no backing like the towel mat I mentioned above. And, you can trim each pad to fit any size mat. These rug pads are simple, easy to use and budget-friendly – a must-have for any aging-in-place bathroom.
I love floor treads for aging in place! You’re probably used to seeing floor treads in bathtubs. But, they can be laid on just about any floor in or out of the shower and are an effective and inexpensive way to add some instant safety to your aging-in-place bathroom.
Floor treads couldn’t be easier to install – you’re literally placing a non-slip sticker on your bathroom floor. They come in many different shapes and sizes so finding one that fits is pretty easy. And, many come in sheets that can be cut to fit the floor space you’re trying to cover.
Here are a few of the best floor treads I’ve found for my aging-in-place bathrooms.
This is one of my favorite floor treads. Most treads are thin and small, but this tread sheet is 6-inches by 12-inches so you can cover a good size area. I’ll place one in the center of the shower where an adult will most likely stand. I’ll also lay them in the higher-traffic sections of the bathroom floor, like in front of the shower or toilet. This tread is virtually invisible so you’ll barely notice it’s there while it’s helping to keep your bathroom floor much safer for your parent.
While these anti-slip tread strips are most commonly used on shower and tub floors, you can also add them to the bathroom floor to add more traction. You can use as many or as few strips as you’d like to cover an area. They’re incredibly customizable. I recommend placing several strips outside the entrance to the shower or tub. While you’ll likely have a bath mat in this location, these strips can act as a back-up plan should the mat get moved. I also suggest placing them at the entrance to the bathroom just inside the door, and in front of the sink and toilet at a minimum.
Shower and Tub Mats
Don’t forget the shower and tub floor when you’re planning for bathroom floor safety. Of those accidents that happen in the bathroom, slips and falls inside the shower or while getting in or out are the most common culprits of serious aging-in-place injuries.
Improving traction on the shower and tub floor is critical to safe bathing. Here are my recommendations for the best bath mats to consider to make the shower floor as safe as possible.
This slip-resistant bath mat is made to fit a standard bathtub. It’s made with quality plastic that’s mildew-resistant. Cheap bath mats can harbor mold and mildew and you’ll end up creating a health issue nearly as dangerous as the one you’re trying to prevent. This tub mat from Pebbles will keep your parent safe and healthy.
Another great product from Gorilla Grip is this over-sized bath mat. Most other bath mats only cover about three-quarters of the tub. Gorilla Grip’s mat is 35-inches long, covering the entire tub floor and reducing the chance of a fall. Even beyond the size, this mat pretty much has it all. It’s anti-bacterial, mildew-resistant, and machine washable.
This mat is similar to the Pebbles tub mat above but shaped for a stand-up square shower stall. The mat is made with durable plastic and can be trimmed to fit a small shower if needed. I like this mat because it’s made to sit right over the top of the shower drain. Since shower stalls typically place the drain right in the middle of the shower where a person stands, the bath mat also serves a dual purpose of keeping an older adult’s feet up off of the drain and much more comfortable.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to place a quality bath mat in your shower or tub – which I highly recommend you do – your parent should not use a bath oil of any kind in the shower. Soap and body wash only. The oil will leave a residue on the bath mat that can build up, creating a very slippery surface. And, even without a bath mat, avoid oils altogether. The risk of slipping is just too high.
Time to Get Started
The threat of a slip or fall in the bathroom is a scary reality for adults as they age. Luckily, there are a lot of preemptive strikes we can take to protect our loved ones. This weekend, make it your DIY project goal to add these flooring products to your aging-in-place bathroom. In just a day or two, you’ll improve the safety of the bathroom and reduce the likelihood of your parent slipping or falling.
As always, use the comments section below to send me your questions throughout the flooring upgrade. And, good luck with your next aging-in-place home project.