We checked in with Kris Drake, a showroom consultant with Infusion Kitchen & Bath by ETNA in Traverse City, about ideas for renovating a bathroom to make it safe for seniors. She gave us the info, and shared some of the latest products that go beyond institutional-looking grab bars.

So let’s say that my 1990s bathroom is an obstacle course that seems to grow each day as my live-in parent ages. What is the first step in making it safe for her or him?

Typically our clients meet with a plumbing contractor first to discuss taking out the alcove tub or tub shower surround (the kind you need to step over the side to get in) and installing a low-threshold shower. Next, they come to me. We actually work hand-in-hand with a number of plumbing companies in the area.

And what sorts of decisions do you help the client with?

The biggest need for seniors and other people with disabilities are grab bars.

But you offer some clever, camouflaged ways to give seniors a place to hang-on that don’t look as sterile as the old aluminum bars.

Yes, for instance, we have a unique shower with a built-in slide bar/grab bar. We also carry a corner shelf that tucks into the shower and doubles as a grab bar. Additionally, we have toilet paper holders that assist as grab bars and that help getting to and from (or up and down from) the toilet.

Season for Soaking: 5 Beautiful Bathtubs in Northern Michigan

Which brings us to toilets…

Yes, we have taller toilets that are great for seniors. The Kohler brand also has a new model that is 2.5 inches taller than its Comfort Height (ADA) toilets, which makes this 4-1/2″ taller than a standard height toilet. It really makes getting up easier.

Finally, tell us about the walk-in tubs we see advertised? I’ve heard the biggest drawback is that you can’t get out until the water drains and people get cold waiting.

People are interested in those if they have the room for them. In the newer models, the water drains out very quickly. One of our vendors, MTI, uses a specially designed proprietary drain that allows their walk-in tub to drain completely in three minutes, so people don’t have to sit there for long.