Install grab bars in public toilets

Recently, I joined a group of classmates - all of them over the age of 80 - for lunch at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

One of them badly needed to use the toilet, and so excused himself halfway through the meal.

After rushing to the closest toilet, he was alarmed to find that out of the five cubicles there, four were already occupied.

These four happened to be the ones equipped with toilet bowls. The only available stall had a squat toilet.

My friend was initially reluctant to use the squat toilet, since his advanced age had taken a toll on his knee joints, mobility and flexibility.

Nevertheless, the urgency of the situation left him with no choice.

After relieving himself, he was alarmed to discover that he could not get up from his squatting position.

As he had feared, his knees were too weak. Nor could he find any grab bars or grips to pull himself back on his feet.

My friend was eventually forced to place both hands on the wet cubicle floor to push himself up.

Public toilets, not only those at Changi Airport but throughout Singapore, are seldom equipped with provisions for elderly users with diminished physical abilities.

This can often result in inconvenience or, at worst, physical injury.

In contrast, many toilets in Japan and Europe come equipped with metal bars in the cubicles, enabling users to hoist themselves from the toilet seats with ease.

In this day and age, as our country seeks to adopt infrastructure catering to an ageing population, retrofitting public toilet cubicles with such fixtures would be a relatively inexpensive, and useful, way to help senior citizens who are out and about.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'Install grab bars in public toilets'. Print Edition | Subscribe