Safe and Attractive "Adaptable" Shower Access Available for Senior Housing

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Adaptable shower units in bathroom design allow easy retrofit of safety fixtures that meets senior residentsÂ? changing access needs.

Most architects think, 'If it's going to be safe, it's going to look institutional,'

Although American Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and local building codes provide practical safety parameters for assisted living and senior housing facilities, providing seniors with “adaptable” bathing access that meets their changing needs deserves special attention from architects and developers as well as facility owners and operators. Ideally, these adaptable safety features must be attractive and not institutional in appearance.

At Irwin-Pancake Architects, a firm specializing in senior housing for 35 years, the philosophy is bathing areas can be safe and beautiful. “While cost is always a factor, it is in everybody's interest to ensure that bathing facilities are not only safe and sound, but provide long-term service and value,” says Douglas Pancake of Irwin-Pancake Architects.

For shower units, Irwin-Pancake often teams with Best Bath Systems ( A division of Fiberglass Systems, Inc., Best Bath sells a broad line of commercial and residential products including shower units and baths directly to dealers, developer-owners and contractors.

"Most architects think, 'If it's going to be safe, it's going to look institutional,'" says Gary Multanen, Best Bath Systems President. “That's not the case with our products. We work closely with designers to ensure they understand the variety of custom looks for bathroom design, while meeting all safety features outlined by the American Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and local codes.”

According to Gregory Irwin of Irwin-Pancake Architects, the goal is to aid a person without reminding them of their infirmities. “Uniformly designing bathing with institutional-looking fixtures can be demoralizing to the senior resident who doesn't need them yet,” says Irwin.

For this reason Best Bath has designed unique drop-in shower units with walls backed with 1/2-inch plywood, to facilitate installation of safety hardware as needed. For example, grab bars can be installed to suit a resident's height or infirmity and adjusted later. Semi-permanent threshold adapters, water dams and seating can be installed with the shower unit or whenever residents have special access needs, such as low step-over or wheel chair entry.


Jeff Mooney

(800) 727-9907


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