Disability Adaptations? In my house? No!

Why do we put fashion before Wisdom  when planning our homes?

Why do we so often reject sensible professional advice for our later years?

No thanks. I can manage” .  

Maybe it is pride?  You know you are getting older but “You dont want everyone else to know do you?”

It may even be aesthetic.My beautiful new bathroom ruined? Cheap plastic high toilet seat?  Plumbers piping lining the front steps?  No, again.

 Recent reports on adaptations rightly recognise that design and quality need attention.  They certainly do. 

But it isn’t so simple as that is it?   

There is an underlying issue…It is about being labelled. 

The grab rails, that toilet seat, the door ramp are signals.  We hear adaptation advice as saying:   You are no longer normal. You need help”   And we dont like it.  

We are afraid of being seen as ageing!

Society, via the media, unthinkingly links old age to decline, misery and uselessness.  Something to be feared, something to be  fought off, even ashamed of. And should you fail and it be obvious, then you are stigmatised.  And old people know it!

Refusing home adaptations is one way to fight back.

In my early years as a Physio we had the identical problem with wheelchairs.

Patients refused to have them. They did not wish to be seen out in one. “I would be embarrassed”

What changed? Campaigning by disabled groups helped of course, but the biggest psychological change came with the advent of Spinal Injury Units and the publicity around Paralympic Sports. Having a wheelchair became heroic! And with the latest designs, cool and trendy. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are now normal and to some weary shoppers, almost enviable.

Do we need that kind of socio psychological acceptance for home adaptations?  Yes!

And I am happy to say , it is beginning to happen.  Walk in showers are becoming normal, even desirable.  No one finds them odd today.  Indeed, baths are almost becoming old fashioned. Or seen as rather silly….Look at this: 


Elegant? Yes! But who can safely climb in and out of that?  Not the majority of us. You certainly shouldn’t  invite your Grandma to use it. And not much use either if you have dislocated your shoulder at rugby.

 We need a change.   Not a campaign, not a lobby, but just a subtle shift. We need the  recognition that all of us at some time from childhood on need sensibly designed housing and especially bathrooms.…nothing to do with ageing. Just wise. Just common sense.

Let’s ask questions. Like this:

Why should there ever be steps up to doors? All Mothers with prams have asked that? Why shouldn’t slopes be the norm?

Why isnt it seen as ordinary to have a grab bar in a shower?. Shouldn’t we assume it normal and sensible for  there to be one?  Could we provoke a feeling that hotels and people who don’t have one are being rather silly? How about Bathroom designers who don’t see them as automatic being equally challenged? On sense and safety grounds? Plenty of elegant designs around for them to play with.

Why not make a shower seat the latest thing to have? Easier for everyone to wash their feet!

Why isn’t it normal for  toilets to have elegant optional seat heights? We are all different sizes. Surely not too difficult to design an easily adjustable seat?

And lets challeng Bathroom designers. Ask,  “If  someone comes to my house who has a bad knee, have you given them something to pull up with?” NOT the toilet roll holder….

In other words, lets get rid of the stigma. Let’s persuade the public that wisely planned  housing is Forward thinking, and in Fashion!   

Lets laugh at people who choose elegance unthinkingly. 

Let’s reward AgeFriendly businesses who have thought about everyone. 

Let’s create a new normal…the expectation that all public facilities have paid basic consideration to people of all ages. 

Let’s persuade society that their old age is like everyone else’s , part of a normal human life: something it is sensible to adjust to. 

And silly if you don’t because you risk missing out on enjoying one of the happiest periods in most people’s life.   

Adapt. Ensure you can enjoy later years to the full.


  1. Christine Thacker
    September 25, 2018 / 11:25 pm

    Common sense when you think about it. Excellent article.

  2. Gina
    January 24, 2019 / 7:23 pm

    Thank you for this! I am younger and have sometimes felt too embarrassed to get equipment I probably need.

  3. jemima
    February 15, 2019 / 11:20 am

    as you said, most of the problem is in the design. maybe someone can be persuaded to give some prizes for some really elegantly designed handrails/steps/adaptations, such that purchasers would barely notice that that delightful feature will be very handy to cling onto/rest up against.

  4. February 15, 2019 / 4:12 pm

    It is definitely a reluctance to admit that one is less able than one was.
    In our lives, we’ll all have numerous examples. I can go back to the 80s when my in-laws had been refusing central heating for years as they could “still manage our coal fires”. They were ridiculously happy after they finally gave in and had it installed.
    I hope we can eventually overcome this reluctance, which keeps people pointlessly trapped in homes that don’t work for them.

  5. Lynda
    June 19, 2019 / 8:57 am

    Excellent article – we do need to adapt ourselves to changing circumstances. When my parents became old and unwell their unwillingness/inability to change or adapt created so many difficulties. They had had very good health all their lives and refused to ‘give in’ as they saw it. I intend to make the changes before I really have to, the most important of which will be to live somewhere easy to look after and close to facilities with a good bus service. We are lucky to have both financial and personal resources to make our own decisions before illness or disability mean other have to make them for us.

  6. Lorelei Hunt
    February 11, 2020 / 8:58 am

    No exceptional mobility problems but still had a bad fall in a bathroom in my ‘40’s – extensive bruising and badly damaged teeth! Painful and expensive. Always look for a handle to support myself, over- bath showers are my particular dislike. But even in hotels they are often just missing. But to agree that design is key here – they need to be well integrated and effective.

  7. Lynda
    February 11, 2020 / 9:48 am

    As usual, you are absolutely right! It is so obvious that form should follow function in building design. I’ve seen bungalows and flat supposedly for older people that have obvious problems that could have been thought about at the outset. The answer as you say is to design and build every home/office/building for all the people who are going to use it. We now have more facilities for babies and children but what about everyone else?

    My husband is an engineer and can always see straight to the practical problems of the latest home fashions, sometimes annoyingly so! Even more annoyingly he’s usually right as well! However I want a rail alongside our outside steps but he won’t countenance it for the very old fashioned reasons you describe. I’ve told him we can get an elegant one but no go! I worry about other people more than us as we are still confident on steps and actually avoid handrails. It still good to know that there is something to grab if you need it – I have an occasional problem with sharp pain in my knee when coming down.

    I think you are correct in saying that attitudes are changing but it’s time the designers took notice as well. I think baths used to have handles in the sides but not now.I was at a friends house yesterday-she lives alone and her back his causing her a lot of problems but she is determined to have every aid she can. Unfortunately she lives in a house on a slope…….

  8. Dena Patrick
    February 11, 2020 / 4:11 pm

    Excellent article and just common sense when you think about it. Loving the idea of the adjustable height loo seat – be great for old, young, tall, short – well everyone really!! Maybe you should patent it?!

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