Ageing International

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 300–317 | Cite as

The Impact of Bathroom Design on Privacy for Users with Special Needs

  • Jeanne BogeEmail author
  • Staf Callewaert
  • Karin Anna Petersen


The aim of this article is to gain an understanding of the relations between the design of bathrooms and the use of the toilet with privacy when residents are unsteady, visually impaired and/or have dementia. The background is that earlier studies and own experiences in Norway indicate that the way bathrooms are designed is crucial for users to be as independent as possible when using the toilet. This article does not include studies on the access to toilets and washbasins for residents who are able to stand on their own. Neither have we studied the use of diapers. The scientific approach includes historical analyses of the rise of privacy when toileting and analyses of bathroom design practices in 20 Norwegian nursing homes. Our investigations show that the expectation that individuals should rid themselves of urine and faces in locked, private rooms arose in connection with the industrialization, democratization and hygienic modernization of Western countries. Analyses of contemporary nursing homes show that many institutions do not have design to facilitate privacy: there are no adjustable toilets, no crutch or walking stick holders, no flushing mechanisms within reach from a sitting position, no toilets that are visible from the residents’ bed, poor contrasts; the toilet paper, soap dispensers and paper towels are out of reach from a sitting position; there are few handles, few adjustable sinks and more than 70 cm between the toilet and the sink.


Bathroom BANO Disabled Design Nursing home Toilet 



The study is funded by Bergen University College.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The study is in compliance with ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

There are no competing interests to declare in relation to this manuscript.

Informed Consent

The study did not require ethics committee approval since no personal data were analyzed. When we researched the bathrooms, the head of the nursing homes had asked the residents for permission. Research assistants/bachelor’s students in nursing were not allowed to take identifiable photos or data with them when leaving the nursing home. All data were controlled by the project manager/first author before publication. The interviews on the resident’s use of the toilet did not include personal, identifiable data.

Ethical Treatment of Experimental Subjects (Animal and Human)

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeanne Boge
    • 1
    Email author
  • Staf Callewaert
    • 2
  • Karin Anna Petersen
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of nursing, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences/ Centre for Care Research West NorwayWestern Norway University for Applied SciencesBergenNorway
  2. 2.The Department of Global Public Health and Primary CareUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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