Bathroom Blogfest: Climbing Out – When You’re 90

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Is your bathroom ready for aging?

By aging, I totally mean you.

Since starting in the building products industry 20+ years ago, I can’t help but notice that we haven’t made a lot of progress towards accepting bathrooms that accept us at all stages and phases of life.

Which brings me to an interesting bathroom “climbing out” story.

My parents lived on their own until my dad was approaching 97 and my mom was in her 80s. My mom was doing everything she could to shield my dad from the embarrassment of having caregivers take over his daily routines.

On one of my usual visits, Mom couldn’t wait to tell me just the funniest darn story. “Arthur, tell Nora what happened to us in the bathroom last week!”

“Is this something I want to hear?”

“Oh, it’s funny! You’ll love this,” Mom is laughing. Dad is laughing. I wait expectantly.

“Daddy is in his bath and can’t get out!”

“I can’t get out! Stuck!” My dad is leaning onto my mom because he is laughing so hard. “Get it? I’ve fallen in and I can’t get up!”

So far, this is not funny.

“So he calls me in and I try to help. Guess what happens?”

I can’t imagine.

“I fall in with him!” Mom howls.

“Now we’re both stuck, absolutely soaking wet, and neither of us can get out!” Daddy can barely get the words out. They are having the time of their lives telling me this story.

I am not laughing.

My parents don’t want unknown caregivers helping them with their most private of functions, and yet they are unable to climb out of the tub. I have a full-time job and a family an hour and a half away. One of these days, the police will knock on my door to tell me my parents have been found drowned together in the bathtub.  We will be on the news.

No one has really figured out how to make an accessible bathroom that doesn’t look like an accessible bathroom. This is not a problem in itself, it’s only a problem because no one wants to install a bathroom that looks like they need an accessible bathroom.

•    We have developed all kinds of creatively decorative grab bars. But they are still grab bars.

•    We have safe walk-in tubs (the type my Mom actually wanted after she moved in with us as a widow) that can drain rapidly.  They look beautiful, as you can see in this story from the October 2011 issue of Fine Homebuilding. But they are still walk-in tubs.


•    We have zero threshold seated showers with handshowers that can easily replace an existing tub/shower and work for the whole family. But they are still showers with seats.

To climb out of the bathroom, I challenge our industry to keep working on beautiful solutions for safe, stylish aging-in-place bathrooms.

But I also challenge us, as consumers, to climb out of our singular idea of what makes a beautiful bathroom.

For me, a beautiful bathroom is one that keeps my family safe and independent. And dry.

What is Bathroom Blogfest? Brainchild of the uber-creative Christine B. Whittemore, Bathroom Blogfest originated in 2006, bringing together bloggers from around the globe to write about the importance of bathrooms in the customer experience. Their posts come from a wide range of perspectives that include sociology, marketing, research, psychology, environmental, customer experience, and user-experience design.  Read the other creative contributions from 2011:

Name Blog Name Blog URL
Susan Abbott Customer Experience Crossroads http://www.customercrossroads.com/customercrossroads/
Paul Anater Kitchen and Residential Design http://www.kitchenandresidentialdesign.com
Shannon Bilby From the Floors Up http://fromthefloorsup.com/
Toby Bloomberg Diva Marketing http://bloombergmarketing.blogs.com/bloomberg_marketing/
Laurence Borel Blog Till You Drop http://www.laurenceborel.com/
Bill Buyok Avente Tile Talk http://tiletalk.blogspot.com
Jeanne Byington The Importance of Earnest Service http://blog.jmbyington.com/
Becky Carroll Customers Rock! http://customersrock.net
Katie Clark Practical Katie http://practicalkatie.blogspot.com/
Nora DePalma O’Reilly DePalma: The Blog http://www.oreilly-depalma.com/blog/
Paul Friederichsen The BrandBiz Blog http://brandbizblog.com/
Tish Grier The Constant Observer http://spap-oop.blogspot.com/
Elizabeth Hise Flooring The Consumer http://flooringtheconsumer.blogspot.com
Emily Hooper Floor Covering News Blog http://www.fcnews.net/category/blog/
Diane Kazan Urban Design Renovation http://blog.urbandesignrenovation.com
Joseph Michelli Dr. Joseph Michelli’s Blog http://www.josephmichelli.com/blog
Veronika Miller Modenus Blog http://www.modenus.com/blog
Arpi Nalbandian Tile Magazine Editors’ Blog http://www.tilemagonline.com/Articles/Blog_Nalbandian
David Polinchock Polinchock’s Ponderings http://blog.polinchock.com/
Professor Toilet American Standard’s Professor Toilet http://www.professortoilet.com
David Reich my 2 cents http://reichcomm.typepad.com
Victoria Redshaw & Shelley Pond Scarlet Opus Trends Blog http://www.trendsblog.co.uk
Sandy Renshaw Purple Wren http://www.PurpleWren.com
Bethany Richmond Carpet and Rug Institute Blog http://www.carpet-and-rug-institute-blog.com/
Bruce D. Sanders RIMtailing http://www.rimtailing.blogspot.com
Paige Smith Neuse Tile Service blog http://neusetile.wordpress.com/
Stephanie Weaver Experienceology http://experienceology.blogspot.com/
Christine B. Whittemore Content Talks Business Blog http://simplemarketingnow.com/content-talks-business-blog/
Christine B. Whittemore Smoke Rise & Kinnelon Blog http://smokerise-nj.blogspot.com/
Christine B. Whittemore Simple Marketing Blog http://www.simplemarketingblog.com/
Ted Whittemore Working Computers http://www.kinneloncomputers.com/
Chris Woelfel Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile Co. http://www.artcraftgmt.com
Patty Woodland Broken Teepee http://www.brokenteepee.com/
Denise Lee Yohn brand as business bites http://deniseleeyohn.com/bites/


3 comments… add one

  • Pricilla - Famous SpokesGoat October 27, 2011 — 12:26 pm edit

    How very true. Thanks for the chuckle too.But I’m not so sure about the image…..

  • C.B. Whittemore October 27, 2011 — 8:00 pm edit


    I so love that you are calling attention to bathrooms that allow us to age gracefully. Between hard surfaces, slippery situations and physical awkwardness, bathrooms can be terrifying. I cam just imagine your reaction to hearing your parents describe their bathtub adventure…

    Our society is aging. For the first time ever, there are more people over the age of 50 in our country than under 50. That means major opportunities to design elegant and safe spaces for all of us. Pretty exciting if done right.

    Thanks so much for being part of Bathroom Blogfest 2011! I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with you.


  • Jeanne Byington November 5, 2011 — 1:05 pm edit


    I, too, was laughing in spite of my horror but I think not only of me, if I am lucky enough to be around in my 80s and 90s, but even people in their 20s-70s when I see some of the stand alone bathtubs that look fabulous in design magazines but strike me as not for the clumsy, distracted or short-legged among us.

    Years ago I bought an elegant apt. from the estate of a woman who lived well into her 90s. High ceilings, stunning architectural elements, working fireplace, giant kitchen….and in the bathroom, a rusty shower that looked like it belonged in a cheap trailer. The benefit, to her, was that if she could walk, she could make the several inch step up to get into it.

    I’m with you. Forcing people to widen doors to make a bathroom wheelchair accessible is not the answer. There is much more work to do.

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