AKW has the key to building accessibility into housing stock

// interiors

Dementia a growing challenge for landlords
The number of people in the UK with dementia is currently over 800,000 and numbers are projected to increase by 40% over the next 12 years. The design challenges presented by dementia usually revolve around enhanced safety and these can be beneficial to all tenants, especially those with sight loss, as colour contrast is key for both conditions.

A high percentage of sheltered housing needs updating
More than two-thirds of all sheltered housing is in the social rented sector and over 40% of social tenants are aged over 85. Most of the housing stock was built last century, meaning that much of it is in need of an upgrade. Although one style of bathroom does not suit everyone, AKW has introduced a ‘Bathroom for Life’ solution that helps social housing landlords tailor their facilities more cost-effectively and quickly.

Increasing numbers of younger people with disabilities
More disabled children are surviving infancy and children under 16 are the fastest growing group of disabled people. Surveys have also shown that families with disabled children make up 5% of all households in the social sector and a quarter of these families will have more than one disabled child. The challenge for families dealing with a child with disabilities is that as they grow and develop, their needs change and lifting them into the bath might not be feasible anymore.  

Building accessible flexibility into your housing stock
AKW’s Bathroom for Life design concept has been proving very popular with social housing providers, as it helps build flexibility into housing stock. As well as a wide range of mobility products and advice to ensure accessibility, design excellence and reliability, AKW’s Bathroom for Life concept allows a conventional bathroom layout to be transformed into a wet room – and back again - quickly and cost-effectively.
Once installed, it takes approximately half a day to either install a bath or take the bath out and return it to a wet room, making it easy for new residents moving into a property, as they can have the choice of a bath or shower depending on their needs or preference. Typically the price difference between a Bathroom for Life fit and a traditional bathroom refurbishment or new build is £500.

Sovereign Housing Association
The benefit of an AKW Bathroom for Life has already made a big difference to a wide range of housing associations. A case in point is Willow Close in Newbury where AKW’s Bathroom for Life was installed in the seven bungalows.
Paul Clayton, Contract Manager from Sovereign Housing, comments: “When tenants move in they start off wanting and needing a bath, but as time moves on, their needs change. When this happens with a ‘Bathroom for Life’, very little disruption is experienced. A trusted local installer is employed to undertake minor adaptations without any structural damage. The bath is simply taken out and, because the plumbing is already in place, they only need to fit a waste adaptor to create a level access shower room.”
This flexible approach has already proven its worth, as within two years of installation, some tenants have already had their bath taken out and so they can have a shower for health reasons.

Overcoming bathroom challenges with good design
As well as issues around depth perception and a diminished sense of danger, people with dementia are twice as likely to fall compared to others in the same age group. Creating dementia-friendly bathrooms doesn’t usually cost any more than the adaptations that would be used in a standard bathroom for the elderly. Even if opting for an AKW Bathroom for Life, the £500 additional cost is quickly recouped if the tenant needs alterations from a bath to a wet room.

By building dementia-friendly design into a bathroom, both tenants are able to use a safe environment that works with their condition, not against them. The major dementia challenges can be overcome with good design and build long-term flexibility into housing stock. Here are the seven main areas where design can have a significant impact:

1) Scalding protection
Include thermostatically controlled taps and showers, minimise exposed pipework and use only low surface temperature radiators and towel rails. AKW’s intelligent electric care shower ensures safe and stable temperatures and eliminates the threat of scald injuries.

2) Preventing falls
Avoid sharp edges and take out floor-standing furniture. Remove the bath and install a level access shower. Also consider installing underfloor heating, so there are no radiators to fall against. 

3) Memory loss
Include flood-proof plugs in the basins and opt for showers that have an auto shut-off function. AKW’s dementia-friendly iShower range of showers automatically shut down after 30 minutes of use if left running, to avoid accidental overflows.

4) Retro memory
A person with dementia has better longer-term memory, so incorporate traditionally designed fixtures and fittings, such as cross-headed taps and a conventional toilet flush rather than modern push-button devices.

5) Mirror confusion
Reflections can be disorientating, so include a roller blind above the sink, so the mirror can be covered when necessary.

6) Floor colour
Consistent flooring shades are crucial as a person with dementia can interpret a change in floor colour as a step up or down that can lead to trips or falls on a level surface.

7) Visual confusion
Contrasting colours can help users with dementia effectively define the shower and toilet areas. For example, contrast can differentiate a grab bar from a wall and the toilet seat from the pan.

Making the most of technology to promote resident safety
Affordable technology is beginning to play a key role in the creation of safe and inclusive washing spaces in private and housing association inclusively-designed properties. Indeed, leading accessible bathroom and adapted living solutions manufacturers are introducing a new generation of smart electric showers that have been developed specifically to meet the requirements of the social care industry.

AKW’s launch of the world’s first Bluetooth® enabled smart electric care shower has enhanced the experience of both ambulant users and those with reduced mobility. The BEAB Care and RNIB certified AKW intelligent electric care shower is wireless and Bluetooth enabled. It has proved very popular with users across the UK, as its settings can be personalised, saved and programmed to turn the shower on at specific times. A delayed mode has also been incorporated to enable carers to transfer special needs users out of the shower before it can be reactivated. 

As housing stock continues to age, people with disabilities live longer and dementia increases, there is a growing need for landlords to build flexibility into their homes. Whether this is through refurbishment, or minor additions to existing bathrooms, the need for inclusively-designed bathroom spaces is growing. For those looking for ideas on how to make their housing stock more inclusive, in a cost-effective way- AKW has a team of experts on hand to help with a range of product and design solutions.

For more information on how to build flexibility into your housing stock, visit www.akw-ltd.co.uk

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