Liveable bathrooms for older people

Assoc Professor Lynette MacKenzie, Faculty of Health Sciences, the University of Sydney, flew the flag for Occupational Therapy Australia at a recent event.

OTA was invited to attend an information session consisting of a keynote speech, panel discussion and produce showcase by bathroom product manufacturer Caroma exploring the future of design in Aged Care living at their Alexandria showroom on Thursday 6 June.

Academics and industry experts came together to explore how industry collaboration, solutions-based innovation and personalised style can challenge the status quo and drive positive wellbeing benefits.

Outcomes from a UNSW study, a joint Australian Research Council and Caroma collaboration, were presented.

The Liveable Bathrooms for Older People Project involved the largest design survey ever conducted with older Australians, with almost 5,000 responses being received from across Australia exploring bathroom environments and usage habits.

Professor Catherine Bridge, expert on inclusive design at UNSW, presented the findings of research into the built environment and how it can be modified to improve wellbeing of ageing Australians.

Key findings from the national survey:

  • A high proportion of both sexes had a Body Mass Index (BMI) within the obesity range with 9% of women and 3% of men appeared to be severely or very severely obese
  • 51% of respondents had bathrooms with separate showers with raised perimeters (hobs) making them inaccessible to wheelchairs and a potential tripping hazard
  • 62% said they rarely or never used their bathroom to have baths
  • Over a third – 37% - indicated they went to the toilet 2-3 times during the night and increased frequency (3-4 times a night) was weakly correlated to medication usage
  • 25% rated bathroom size as poor and 48% specifically mentioned insufficient space to dress/undress in the bathroom
  • 20% rated winter temperatures in bathrooms as poor
  • 20% rated the quality of the bathroom floor to prevent slipping as poor
  • Safety concerns were expressed, including not being able to call for help in an emergency (18%), not being able to get up after a fall (15%) and slipping in the shower or on wet floors (11%)

Afterwards a panel discussion was facilitated by Lee Lin Chin, featuring the presenter and panellists Peter Sweatman, Industrial Design, Caroma and Sadie Burling, Head of Health, Ageing, Retirement and Disability Services, Paynter Dixon Construction.

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