Senior Living: Showering Seniors with Safety, Comfort and Style

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Sunrise Senior Living and its architects have partnered with suppliers such as Best Bath Systems to provide residents with high-quality fiberglass showers that provide safety, comfort and residential styling

Life is golden for many seniors, but as they continue to age, the journey also tends to become more precarious – and dramatically more expensive – when injuries and resulting medical expenditures occur. A fall in the bathtub or shower in a senior living facility can result in trauma that add up to tens of thousands of dollars in unplanned expenses for seniors and their families, possibly resulting in painful therapies, increased fragility or permanent disabilities.

While showering in a tub is arguably inherently hazardous for anyone, shower stalls can be particularly troublesome for seniors. Moreover, the design of some fiberglass shower “units” can be aesthetically unpleasing and present installation complexities. Senior care and other lodging facilities must also meet building codes and disability act requirements.

“A critical aspect is the senior’s dignity,” says Gene Schoenfelder, VP Construction Management Sunrise Senior Living. “They need to get in and out of the shower safely. But if they don’t feel they need help, or use a walker or wheelchair, how do they get across an inch-and-a-half threshold?

“How do we provide for them to sit down or have privacy if they prefer not having a caregiver with them in the shower area? How do you handle the water controls and shower wands? All those factors go into the planning and implementation at our senior living facilities,” adds Schoenfelder.

Regardless of the level of care required, Sunrise insists that its facilities maintain a warm and friendly residential atmosphere, not an institutional one. To maximize success, Sunrise often partners with vendors such as Best Bath Systems (

An innovative leader in adaptable access bathing products since 1972, Best Bath has worked with Sunrise and others on shower system and bathroom design that meets the requirements of seniors, acute care patients, residents in rehabilitation and those requiring “universal access” accommodations.

“We have worked closely with manufacturers in designing customized shower units for Sunrise,” says Timothy Danforth, AIA partner in charge of construction administration at BeeryRio Architecture + Interiors, the primary architect for Sunrise facilities in the U.S. “Best Bath has always been responsive.”

Best Bath collaborated with Sunrise and BeeryRio on a unique shower design that includes a low profile, collapsible, neoprene “water dam” at the base of the shower entry. The water dam is highly flexible, and gives way to wheelchairs, walkers or feet, and then reforms its original shape to prevent water from flowing out onto the bathroom floor.

Safety devices such as grab bars and handrails are also crucial components in senior facilities. In some cases, due to injuries or increasing frailty, safety bars must be added or relocated. Best Bath satisfies those needs by incorporating a heavy, 1/2-inch plywood backing into the walls of its shower enclosures for easy installation or relocation of grab bars that hold securely under lateral loads of 300 lbs.

“We always tell the builders to buy the best product for the senior living project. That is widely recognized as Best Bath, which is superior in material gauge thickness, design and plumbing preparation,” says Danforth.

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Jeff Mooney
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