Today we talk to Tom Reynolds, chief executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, about the need to include accessible design as standard.

Much of our existing housing stock is woefully inadequate for an ageing population. Millions of homes have steps to the entrance, and few have an accessible downstairs toilet. Even parents trying to navigate a pram through a household will experience challenges.

While I believe the accessible, adaptable design standard set out in Building Regulations should be a mandatory baseline for all new homes, the home improvement sector needs to be ready to adapt and retrofit to meet our changing needs.

Most people want to live in their homes for as long as possible, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that most adaptations are made in the bathroom when mobility challenges arise. Changes to the WC are the most common, where the seat and height require adjustment with the addition of a grab rail. And while we have traditionally been a nation of bathers, level-access shower adaptations are a mainstay of any bathroom redesign.

However, redesigning bathrooms to meet changing needs does not mean abandoning attractive design. Yes, the adaptation must meet the user’s basic requirements to continue daily living activities, but we at the Bathroom Manufacturers Association firmly believe that form and function are achievable outcomes. Bathroom manufacturers’ in-depth knowledge of adaptations means that products are functional but also desirable and luxurious.

Most people are proud of their homes, designing them in line with their personalities and design tastes, so why stop when mobility challenges arise? Even small changes to a bathroom can make a world of difference and enable people to spend later life in their homes, avoiding disrupting and upsetting potential moves into residential care.

Specifiers, designers and retailers should know that creating accessible bathrooms is not a niche endeavour. And as the population ages, it will become more commonplace. There is an opportunity for us all to challenge the idea that functional equals ugly or utilitarian.

For those looking to make adaptations, the first port of call is often the means-tested Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). Not all applications to this fund are successful, however. According to the Independent Review of the Disabled Facilities Grant, around a quarter drop out because they have to contribute to the costs.

We want to see the DFG easily accessible to those in need and provide more choices to the end-user. After all, it’s a win-win outcome whereby people can stay in their own well-designed homes for longer while avoiding the rising costs associated with residential or hospital care.