This One Thing In Your Bathroom Could Become Dangerous As You Age

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), falling is the number 1 cause of injury amongst those 65 years of age and older. Affecting 1 in 4 seniors in the U.S. every year, falls leave older adults susceptible to potentially fatal injuries. Along with broken bones, hip fractures, and head injuries, minor falls can also have a lasting impact on one's health if the fall causes an older adult to avoid physical activity out of fear.

Decreases in vision, balance, flexibility, and coordination that occur as we age can pose new challenges in navigating our surroundings — particularly the bathroom (via NCOA). While a slippery tub certainly poses a risk for an unforeseen slip and fall, there is another item in the bathroom that can also become dangerous as we get older for reasons beyond a fall. Therefore, experts stress the importance of making modifications to this item as you approach your 60s.

The risks of a low toilet seat

According to HomeCare, the height of the toilet seat is a key factor in bathroom safety for seniors. Because the average toilet seat is positioned lower than a natural sitting position, transitioning between standing and sitting requires us to engage our leg muscles, hips, and knees — the joints which lose flexibility over time. "Many seniors have weak leg muscles or problems with balance," Robin Schiltz, founder of Senior Safety Advice, told Best Life. "This makes it difficult to control both how they sit down and how they get up from a low toilet seat. Weak leg muscles increase the risk of falls during the transition from standing to sitting and vice versa, particularly for a frail senior."

But aside from falls, a low toilet seat can also pose additional health risks if an older adult is left unable to get up. "This could result in sitting on the toilet seat for a very long time, causing pressure sores or skin breakdown on older, sensitive skin," Terri Lemere, occupational therapist and certified aging in place specialist, told Best Life.

Try making these modifications to your toilet

To safeguard our health and reduce the chances of falls or pressure sores, it's important to know what options are available to seniors as we age. As recommended by HomeCare, consider purchasing a raised toilet seat. Not only does a raised toilet seat provide an extra 2-5 inches of support, but certain models also come with armrests, which can be fastened or locked to the toilet itself. Similarly, toilet seat elevators also boost the height of the toilet but are installed under your original toilet seat — no need to purchase a new one. Lastly, toilet safety rails can be particularly helpful while transitioning between standing and sitting. This equipment can either be fit around the toilet or directly attached.

By making some modifications to your toilet seat as you and your loved ones age, you can reduce the risk of falls and other potential injuries.