Rethinking Healthcare

Bring on the bidet

Bring on the bidet

Posting in Cities

As the U.S. population ages, the country is seeing a boost in bidet toilet sales. Bidets offer fall-prone older people an easier way to regularly wash their privates.

Angela Hamarich, a lawyer in New York City's Financial District, travels abroad regularly. One thing she hasn't gotten used to, she tells SmartPlanet, is the presence of bidet's in foreign bathrooms.

"They seem almost mythical to me," she tells SmartPlanet, "in a fancy way."

Washington D.C. mental health researcher Laura Chopko spent last year in Japan.

For three months she lived a Yokohama apartment outfitted with a bidet toilet, but she never felt compelled to use the bidet options, she says.

Bidets have long been a foreign notion to most Americans, an odd-seeming way of cleaning one's privates.

However, the New York Times reports that bidet toilets, which offer a warmed stream of water over the perineal area, are gaining popularity in the U.S. market.

This rise in bidet sales has been largely attributed to the aging of the general American population. Dr. Mary Tinetti, chief of geriatrics at Yale Medical School, told Times reporter Paula Span:

"As people get older and frailer, it’s harder for them to do good personal hygiene, particularly if they have arthritis. They can’t maneuver around [to wipe or wash themselves effectively]."

Bidets eliminate the need to make these difficult motions, and may reduce an elderly person's chances of falling on hard slippery bathroom floors. They can also reduce falls by allowing a person to clean their lower body without getting in a shower.

Beside preventing falls, bidets can also help guard against infections. Urinary tract infections happen more regularly in post-menopausal women, and they're the most common reason older people have to visit hospitals. Urinary bacteria also plagues the elderly, and bidet use could reduce the need to take antibiotics that come with harmful side effects.

Kohler, the largest U.S. manufacturer of bidets, has seen a steady rise in sales. Their bidets go for $1000-$2000 each, but other brands offer far less expensive options online.

[via The New York Times]

Photo: Rick Bradley/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure