Out of all the rooms in the house, the bathroom can be the most intimidating layout for aging adults because of all the possible fall-related hazards.
Even though fixtures such as the shower, tub, and toilet present their own challenges regarding mobility, our focus today is on the challenges of a slippery bathroom floor. The surface an older adult walks on plays a big part in their overall bathroom safety plan.
In this article, we will discuss the best bathroom flooring options for seniors and the elderly (including the pros and cons), options to avoid, safe bathroom flooring for walkers, and the best bathroom flooring for wheelchairs.
Best Bathroom Flooring for Seniors and the Elderly
Here are three excellent options for bathroom flooring for seniors and the elderly, each of which come with a list of pros and cons for you to delve into and form your own opinions about:
Textured, Waterproof, Corked Vinyl Flooring
If you walk into any home improvement store, you’ll notice a plethora of vinyl flooring options. In recent years, vinyl flooring has grown in popularity because it’s often cheaper and easier to install.
- Textured vinyl flooring prevents slips and falls
- Waterproof vinyl extends the life of the flooring, makes it easier to clean, and prevents mold spores from developing.
- Vinyl that has an underlying cork layer makes the flooring extra shock-absorbent, making it softer on the joints while walking across and better for landing purposes in the event of a fall.
- Vinyl flooring comes in hundreds of color options
- It’s extremely easy to install
- Vinyl flooring that combines texture, waterproofing, and corking features is usually more expensive than other vinyl flooring.
Cork flooring is extra what it is, cork. It’s a softer material than vinyl flooring but easier to keep clean than carpet.
- Cork is naturally textured, which may help in preventing slips and falls
- Cork is a soft material, which makes it shock-absorbent for falls and general walking purposes
- Cork is generally easy and cheap to install
- Although it’s relatively easy to keep clean, cork is not waterproof, so you may be looking to replace it sooner than something like vinyl or tile.
Non-Slip Tile Flooring
Textured tile flooring is aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting, perfect for a bathroom layout.
- Textured tile helps prevents slips and falls
- Tile that is professionally installed has a long life, longer than many vinyl flooring options.
- Tile is very aesthetically pleasing and comes in many colors.
- It’s a pain to replace tile, especially if one or two crack and you end up having to replace the whole floor.
- Tile doesn’t provide shock absorbency, meaning if you fall in the bathroom, you’ll land hard.
- Tile, although reasonably cheap to purchase, is expensive to install.
Flooring Options to Avoid
Now that we’ve reviewed some of the better options, here are a few flooring alternatives you should probably avoid altogether for bathroom use:
Some seniors enjoy having carpeted rooms throughout the house, especially bedrooms, living rooms, and den areas, because the flooring is more comfortable on the joints.
Additionally, the texture is more reliable than slick hardwood flooring. However, carpeting in a bathroom should be an absolute no-no.
Combined with warmth and condensation, carpets provide a breeding ground for toxic mold. Furthermore, you’ll be looking at replacing the carpet sooner than later since the water and heat exposure wears at its life expectancy.
Some fads that emerged in the 1970s should stay and diet in the 1970s. One of those fashion statements was household linoleum.
The appearance wasn’t so much the issue as was the safety concerns. Although very easy to clean, Linoleum is extremely slick and not appropriate for wet-surface bathrooms.
Cheap Vinyl Flooring
If you invest in bathroom vinyl flooring, commit to the process and spend the extra money on high-quality vinyl. Cheap vinyl with very few layers may not fit properly or may run the risk of buckling after a short period.
Buckled or bloated vinyl creates cracks and unexpected thresholds, leading to terrifying tripping hazards.
Loud-Colored Designer Flooring
Avoid mosaic tiling, loud or busy patterns, or bright neon-colored slats. Wild or loud coloring on the bathroom floor can be highly disorienting and disrupt your depth perception, leading to loss of balance and falls.
Safe Bathroom Flooring for Walkers
Consider the type of walker you primarily use at home. Is it a standard frame with nubby feet? Does it have wheels?
When using any type of walker in the bathroom, you want a bathroom floor with minimal to no thresholds, divots, or cracks. Surfaces such as vinyl and tile (professionally installed) are generally smooth enough to allow safe walker use.
RELATED: Small Bathroom Ideas for Seniors
Best Bathroom Flooring for Wheelchairs
Similarly, for walkers, you want a bathroom floor that is smooth and sleek enough for the treads on your wheelchair.
However, you also want a floor textured enough for the treads to catch while the brakes are on for transfers in and out of the chair. Any vinyl or tiling with a non-slip or textured feel would be best suited for this situation.
Quick Tips to Make Existing Bathroom Floors Safer Without Replacing It
Sometimes, making your bathroom floor safer isn’t about ripping up the old flooring and starting anew. You may be able to work with what you got and supplement your bathroom routine with a few safety features, including:
- Wearing non-skid socks during mobility and transfers
- Having adequate lighting in the bathroom
- Making sure the floor is always dry before and after showering or bathing
- Cleaning up and managing any floor clutter
- Removing ALL throw rugs from your bathroom
- Installing grab bars for more available external support
- Practicing safe mobility habits: putting wheelchair or walker brakes on, accessing physical assistance when needed, etc.
- Installing a fall alert system or keeping your cellphone on your person in the event of a fall or medical episode while in the bathroom
Summary and Final Recommendations
Selecting the right bathroom floor can create a massive difference for aging adults and prevent unnecessary falls, injuries, or hospitalizations.
Consult a professional about your options and which flooring layout would work best for your unique situation and mobility needs.
If replacing your flooring is not financially feasible, consider adopting safe bathroom practices and utilizing adaptive modifications to make your bathroom experience safer and more enjoyable.