Access to the future

With multigenerational living on the rise, UK homes must be designed to support the varying needs of residents with a range of ages and abilities. Daniel Ward of Twyford explains how.

Modern homes need to deliver on a number of levels, meeting the needs of the diverse occupants that may walk through their doors. With the bathroom so essential to all residents, choosing solutions that are accessible and practical is very important.

This is particularly relevant with more than one generation living under the same roof. Recent research suggests households containing two or more families will rise from 1.5 million to 2.2 million by 2025.

Apart from the nuts and bolts of sanitation, other considerations such as storage or easier cleaning can make life easier for occupants.

Accessibility

Bathroom products are able to make a huge impact on a house’s function, and there are many factors to consider when specifying. The first thing to consider in any bathroom is its accessibility. Can it be used by most residents? Can the basin be reached, the taps be turned on? Is washing (bath or shower) safe and simple, and is getting on and off the WC an easy task? These are basic, but essential elements that can help occupants keep safe, and allow those with mobility issues to maintain their independence.

When buying taps, choose thermostatic, lever taps that are easy to turn on. These styles can be much easier to turn on for young people, or those with arthritic fingers, and importantly, prevent scalding. Short projection, wide basins are easier to access by wheelchair users, as well as looking modern and stylish. When incorporated with short projection cupboard space underneath, easy-access storage is also covered.

In general, showers are easier to access than baths. Installing flush-to-the-floor shower trays prevents slipping, and the incorporation of a seat is a great option for anyone unable to stand for long periods of time. When choosing a bath, baths featuring head rests, seats and a wider edge (ideal for a parent or carer to sit on) will vastly improve washing options for the very young and the elderly.

Comfort-height WCs are another great option for those with mobility issues as they are far easier to get on and off for wheelchair users. Lastly, choosing non-slip, textured flooring can help to prevent potentially dangerous falls.

Practicality

Beyond safety and usability concerns, a bathroom that works well for multiple occupants of varying ages and abilities must have storage at its core. Everyone needs their own space, and by including well-thought out options to tidy away toiletries, the room will appear less cluttered and be easier to clean.

However cramped the conditions, there is usually some form of storage that can be incorporated. Tall tower units, for example, make use of the unused space up the wall, providing multiple shelves so all the family can have their own. In addition, storage can be included under basins, in the recess under the bath and even in movable stools.

Practicality also extends to how easy the room is to clean; a particular concern for parents with young children. When it comes to the WC, the area most associated with germs, rim-free toilets should be considered. Originally developed to meet the stringent demands on healthcare buildings, they can be an ideal solution in multi-occupancy homes.

Wall-hung WCs, basins and even furniture are the direction modern bathrooms are moving, offering stylistic as well as practical benefits. By removing pedestals, floor-standing pans and legs, dust and germs have nowhere to collect and cleaning around and underneath them is easy. Combining rim-free technology with wall-hung is the perfect combination.

With an ageing population, rising house prices, rents and tuition fees forcing young people to stay at home for longer, and the benefits of ‘live-in’ babysitters for working parents, multigenerational living is a trend that’s set to endure. The UK housing stock has a commitment to meet the requirements of the changing family, while keeping occupants safe. By choosing quality, fit for purpose solutions, bathrooms will last longer and be accessible by all.

Daniel Ward is senior ceramics product manager at Twyford