“The Case For Grab Bars As We Age In Place”

Grab bars, rings, straps, and other types of assists are commonly seen and accepted forms of support on public transit systems, and no one gives them a second thought – they are not associated with ability.

Grab bars, or safety rails, or safety bars, or handrails, or shower rails, or other names that we apply to a linear or tubular support of some type that allows us to secure ourselves in the event of loss of balance or a projected fall. Many of us over the years have eschewed grab bars because they indicate a type of frailty or advanced age. We relegate the discussion or consideration of grab bars to seniors and those with specific abilities that would require their use. However, we all are aging in place. We get older with each passing moment. Therefore, we are aging in place as we age in place (get older).

The idea of the grab bar, safety rail, or other name that we use to describe them is simply addressing safety. Going up and down a set of stairs, there is a handrail on the side. We might not feel as safe if it were missing, particularly if it was open to a lower level and we could simply fall off the edge if we lost our balance. We would not look forward to that so the railing is there to protect us.

In the same way, getting in and out of a tub or shower, or coming in or out of a doorway – particularly at a landing – we benefit from having something to steady ourselves (when we need it) and give us something to grab onto. Many, if not most, of us have ridden an amusement ride like a ferris wheel or roller coaster, and what do we have to secure us into that car on the ride but a safety bar or rail of some type that the attendant secures for us before starting the ride – sometimes it’s automatic. It’s always checked to make sure that it’s in place and working to provide the protection it’s designed to do.

Riding a bus, subway, tram, airport shuttle, or other type of public transportation that moves at various speeds but has a tendency to stop quickly and take off abruptly has grab bars straps and other types of devices installed to allow us to hold on to or catch our balance if we begin to slip. None of us deem these protective devices as being there for a lack of ability. Most of us do not think anything about them at all but know that they are there in the event that we need them. The same is true in the bathroom and at the entrances to our homes.

Call those bars, assists, or devices what you like, but they are there to provide assistance in the event we need them. If we slip going in or out of the shower because the floor is wet, we lose our balance, we’re distracted, we have light reflecting off of a shiny wall (or shower enclosure surface or mirror), or we are thinking of something that we need to do when we finish our shower and we just aren’t focusing on the job at hand, we could slip.

We could step on water that has pooled on the bathroom floor, maybe the shower floor didn’t get totally mopped or dried off after its last use, there’s some residual water or soap, or the floor surface itself is not that slip-resistant even when dry, we might have a temporary condition such as a sinus headache or a migraine or something else which affects our vision and potentially our balance. Coming out of the shower, maybe we got shampoo or soap in our eyes and we reach for a towel to help, or just in the normal course of exiting a shower, we are drying our face and hair with a towel and partially or totally obscuring our vision.

Any of these could cause us to stumble or trip even though we are totally familiar with the entrance to or from our own shower having used it dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Still, the potential exists for a misstep We know that falling is one of the major safety issues in a home so it makes sense to provide the additional protection we need regardless of age, ability, size of the home, or how careful we are,

There are just so many ways we can slip and so many things that we cannot predict or take into account which is why we having safety bars, shower rails, grab bars, handrails, other types of devices, as we choose to call them, is extremely prudent This is why it is one of the top home improvement applications over the past few years (according to Home Advisor and the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers).

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