The most dangerous room in the house is the bathroom, where seniors are at higher risk of slipping and falling. According to the CDC, bathroom slip-and-fall incidents send almost 250,000 Americans to the emergency room each year, many of them involving seniors. The risk is even higher for seniors with limited mobility, balance issues and other disabilities.
Walk-in tubs are a very effective way of reducing the risk bathrooms pose to seniors with disabilities. Tubs with gates that can be held open allow seniors to step into them without having to lean over a high tub wall. The design of a walk-in tub encourages seniors to enter the tub and sit down before it fills with water, which also cuts down the risk of slips on wet porcelain floors.
This guide is intended to help readers find a walk-in tub for themselves or for disabled seniors they care for. Tubs are evaluated for how safe, comfortable and affordable they are, with the intent that readers can find a tub that’s ideal for their home.
The Ella’s Bubbles Companion Massage Tub has a high overall performance in most of the categories seniors’ walk-in tubs are judged by. It’s large enough to seat two people or give a single occupant ample room to move around and stretch out. The two air and 18 water jets produce streams of soothing bubbles that massage the legs, back and neck. These jets can be left off for a normal bath. The tub has a swing-out door with enough space to step through, making it easier for seniors to get in without turning sideways. The smooth interior surface is easy to clean and sanitize, while the large-bore drain empties the whole tub in under one minute. All the features that come with Ella’s Bubbles tubs make installation more complicated than a typical tub, and they are priced somewhat higher than the average walk-in tub.
American Standard is the flagship brand of most American bathrooms. The company’s right-hand-outward tub is designed to be a very simple, comfortable and affordable option with as many safety features as possible in an easy-to-install package. This model has a wide seat with enough room to prop up a leg or turn 90 degrees without standing up. The right-side door is sealed with a resilient gasket that’s covered by American Standard’s lifetime warranty. Multiple grip bars make moving around inside the tub safe, and the ultra-simple touch button controls are senior-friendly. The tub has relatively few jets, but the leg jets are very strong and provide solid massage for seniors with circulation issues and sore feet. The American Standard walk-in tub is priced near the bottom of the market and few, if any, features have been sacrificed for cost.
The Ariel EZWT-3060-SOAKER-R is one of the least expensive walk-in tubs on the market. It has virtually none of the features of the much more expensive tubs, but none of the essentials are missing. ADA-compliant grab bars are located where occupants are likely to need them, and the wide seat provides surprisingly generous space for a compact tub that measures just 60 inches by 30 inches along the textured floor of the basin. Installation of the Ariel tub is very simple and can be done quickly, and a set of adjustable feet under the skirt allows precision placement to level it off.
The AmeriGlide Sanctuary walk-in tub has all the basic features needed for safety, with the option to expand the tub’s function with therapeutic water and air jets. The basic model in the AmeriGlide line has an ADA-compliant 17-inch high comfort seat, and a convenient 6.5-inch entry step makes it easy for seniors with limited mobility to step through the swing-out door. The anti-slip floor offers a firm grip that makes slips unlikely, and the extendable shower head instantly converts the tub into a sit-down shower. Optional jet packages include:
Seniors who live on their own need to take good care of themselves and stay safe in the bathroom. Independent seniors with disabilities are at an elevated risk of falling in the tub, which drives most of the design differences built into walk-in tubs. Grab bars, nonslip floor panels and benches are all effective at reducing or eliminating the risk of falling in the tub.
Beyond safety, walk-in tubs offer seniors with disabilities a generally more comfortable experience. By opening to the side, walk-in tubs don’t force seniors to step over a high wall to take a bath, or to lean way in to clean the tub when it’s not in use. Large, easy to read and use jet controls let seniors manage the tub’s settings without asking for help from a caregiver.
Seniors and their loved ones have a lot to think about when shopping around for a walk-in tub. The first things to look for in a tub are safety features. Nonslip texture on the floor of the tub may be harder to clean than a smooth surface, but it’s inherently safer than having to rely on pads or a nonslip mat. The tub door should be wide enough to comfortably step through, and it shouldn’t have too high of a lip on the floor, which can be a tripping hazard. Cutoff switches and timers for the jets and heating element, if the tub has one, are also good features to look for. This helps prevent overheating or other issues if a senior with a disability can’t leave the tub for whatever reason.
Other features affect how comfortable a tub can be for seniors with sore muscles or circulation issues. Walk-in tubs frequently come with air and/or water jets that provide targeted massage to the legs and back. These features generally cost more than a bare-bones basin, with the least expensive models costing around $2,000. Top-end tubs can cost as much as $5,000 with all of the most popular features included. In addition to these costs, it’s a good idea to budget at least $1,000 to $2,000 extra for delivery and installation costs, even for small and simple walk-in tubs. Bathtubs with jets and other powered features generally require a secure 240-volt electrical hookup, which can add continuing electricity costs to the expense of the tub.
If you are planning to install a new bathtub for yourself or a senior you care for, you can get a clearer picture of your options and likely costs by reading our article on paying for walk-in tubs for seniors with disabilities.