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HPM-04-APR-2016

Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com SPECIALREPORT Bathrooms: inviting, relaxing and safe Barbara Osborne, product manager at Methven UK, discusses the ageing population and what this means when designing a bathroom... Thanks to better healthcare, advancements in technology and a higher standard of living, the UK’s population is living longer. This is clearly a cause for celebration, but also presents new issues which, as an industry, bathroom manufacturers must address. More than 11 million people are now aged over 65, with one in three of us aged 55 and over, and the number of centenarians alive increased by 73% in the last decade. With this shift in demographic comes the necessity to ensure that society is prepared to meet the needs of the elderly. MEETING SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS In a recent survey, conducted by Shelter, which focused on housing options for the elderly, it was revealed that more than half of respondents believed their current bathrooms required modification or re-planning to make them more accessible and easy-to-use. The need for change is highlighted by recent NHS statistics stating that it spends £16 million each year on treating elderly patients for injuries related to falls associated to baths. This highlighted the already pressing need to improve bathrooms in existing properties to meet the specific requirements of the elderly, and is a pressure that is only going to increase in years to come. Furthermore, the bathroom was identified as a key area that should be designed to embrace all ages and abilities by the Foundation for Lifetime Homes and Neighbourhoods. Despite urging the bathroom industry, including specifiers, installers and manufacturers, to support inclusive living, the reality is, there is much more to be done. To address this, members of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA) have already 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 continuing to work hard to develop products that improve accessibility and safety, ultimately helping designers to create bathroom spaces which are usable throughout a person’s life. Simple product enhancements, such as longer, more ergonomically designed lever and looped lever handles make showers and taps easier to operate and can make a positive impact on the overall bathroom experience. Taps fitted with ceramic disc valves ensure a smooth operation which aids those with limited dexterity, while clearer markings allow the user to easily understand how the shower or tap WWW.HPMMAG.COM In a recent survey, conducted by Shelter, it was revealed that more than half of respondents believed their current bathrooms required modification or re-planning to make them more accessible and easy-to-use operates. While design is important, so too is the development of new technologies to future-proof bathrooms for the elderly. Often the needs of the elderly are dismissed simply as mobility challenges, which can be resolved with the creation of walk-in showers or baths. While providing some assistance, these methods fail to address some of the more serious issues the elderly face in the bathroom. For instance, showering presents a much broader set of challenges. Temperature, flow and spray are all things that can impact upon an older person’s showering experience and these considerations have helped to shape recent technological advancements in showering products. With the rise in multi-generational living these considerations benefit the whole family. MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICES It is essential that those specifying bathroom products are presented with adequate information, ensuring they make the right choice for their customers’ individual requirements and situations. For instance, if a user has sensitive skin, then showers with a softer flow should be specified. When specifying products for the elderly, safety is always of paramount importance, as hot water can cause a serious scald injury within a matter of seconds. The degree of scalding depends on the temperature and volume of hot water, and the length of time the body is exposed to it. Often, it can take only seconds for a severe scald to occur, it is the second most common 30 APRIL 2016 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY cause of household injuries, with adults above the age of 65 being among those at highest risk. Unfortunately, there are 570 serious bath water scald injuries, and more than 20 related deaths, in the UK every year. Thermostatically controlled products accurately control the temperature of water for showering, bathing and hand-washing. These valves maintain their pre-set temperature even if the water pressure varies when other appliances are used. Once installed and maintained correctly, they can significantly reduce the risk of scalding in the home. SAFE AND COMFORTABLE Complementing this, elderly customers can benefit from cool-to-touch shower technology which ensures that the temperature of the valve never exceeds that of the mixed water. Being safe and comfortable to touch, users can rest assured that they won’t scald themselves if they accidentally touch the shower body, especially where shower space is limited. When specifying for the older customer, installers will find it helpful to refer to products conforming to BuildCert’s TMV scheme that minimise the risk of scalding. Inclusivity and versatility are imperative; installed products should address the needs of the ageing population without alienating users from a design perspective. The bathroom should be user friendly, as well as remaining an inviting, relaxing and, most importantly, safe place to be. enquiry number 124


HPM-04-APR-2016
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