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Older Australian out and about in the global context: Their bathroom preferences and what this means for standards development and accessible tourism

Bridge, CE; Mintzes, A; Demirbilek, O


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  • Title:
    Older Australian out and about in the global context: Their bathroom preferences and what this means for standards development and accessible tourism
  • Author/Creator/Curator: Bridge, CE; Mintzes, A; Demirbilek, O
  • Faculty and School: Built Environment, School of Built Environment HDR students; Built Environment, School of Built Environment staff
  • Resource type: Conference Presentation
  • Date: 2014
  • Event: Symposium on Trends in Universal Design (STUD20124); Start: 2014-12-01; End: 2014-12-12
  • Grants: Scheme - LINKAGE PROJECT, Funder ref. no. - LP120100395, Funding agency - AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL
  • Permissions: This work can be used in accordance with the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.
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  • Description: The importance of the physical environment for ageing is well documented, as is the growth of the silver economy and its value for the tourism industry. Tourism is one of the word's largest growth industries, and part of its growth is directly linked to population ageing and the desire of many older people to use their retirement years in active leisure pursuits including travel activities. Many older travellers may have a disability, illness, or limitation that may hinder one or more life functions. However, currently, research and data on prospective users and their capabilities, behaviour and needs, usually comes from the fields of health and disability and ergonomics and it is rarely easy to translate it to the design of better tourism experiences or better products. Australia is one a small number of countries that has specifically commissioned research to underpin their standards and in the Australian case this research was undertaken in 1983 by Bails. As a consequence, the scope of the Australian Access and Mobility Suite of Standards (AS 1428) which set out the general requirements for access - new building work were based on adults with disabilities aged 18 to 60 years. The theory underpinning standards committee work in Australia and elsewhere is that if wheelchair users are accommodated for, then most other people with disabilities are also accommodated. However when we are considering tourism for the silver economy while wheelchair mobility is a barrier, a greater barrier to fully benefitting from the silver economy is the adequacy of ambulant bathroom facilities from the perspective of older persons. In order to start to address the age limitations inherent within the current Australian standards regarding Accessibility of the Built Environment, a bathroom survey was funded by the Australian Research Council as a Linkage partnership grant. The ‘Livable Bathroom’ survey aimed to establish some basic guidance around bathroom design for older persons, and as such was specifically designed to gain knowledge about the person, their bathroom environment, and the activities undertaken within it. This survey was distributed to a random sample of just under seventeen thousand Australians aged 60 years and over, using the Electoral Roll. Our response rate was just over twenty-seven per cent providing us with a sample that is broadly representative of the Australian population aged over 60 years.In this paper, some highlights of the survey as they relate to activities, falls, body size and safety as relevant to older persons expectations for hotel bathrooms and public lavatories are discussed. Key issues identified include night-time use, fear of falls and the correlation (although weak) between the frequencies of use. bathroom size and older persons comfort ratings. In summary, it appears that older people were concerned about safety (one in ten respondents reported feeling concerned or very concerned), and the highest levels of concern were expressed in relation to not being able to call for help in an emergency, such as not being able to get up after a fall, slipping in the shower or on wet floors, and concern was also relatively high for getting in or out of the bath. Additionally older Australians rated bathrooms more poorly if there was inadequate space to dress and undress, a perception of slippery floors and a lack of winter heating.

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