Making bathrooms better

Sheffield Hallam University is working with Kingston-upon-Hull headquartered Ideal Standard to design safe bathrooms better suited for older disabled people.

For people with limited mobility, the bathroom is the room in the house where accidents such as falls are most likely to occur. Illness, disability and frailty in older age ultimately lead to help being needed with using the toilet and bathing. For most people this is an unpleasant invasion of privacy and loss of dignity.

A £410,000 EPSRC project will investigate methods of improving the quality and design of bathroom furniture for older people that is also acceptable to other bathroom users.

The project team will recruit older people living independently, as well as those living in sheltered and other forms of assisted housing, to input directly into the design process. These will include people with common disabilities, which become more severe with age such as arthritis, sight and hearing loss and disability after stroke.

A prototype bathroom will be provided within the ‘user lab’ at Sheffield Hallam University for the project. The laboratory bathroom will include mockups of bathroom furniture and devices that are adaptable and can be moved around the space as required. The first area to be addressed will be that of showering.

The team, who start the project in April 2008, will use data gathered from the research to write design principles that take into account how to most productively engage older people.