Question:Is a towel bar the same as a grab bar?

AARP HomeFit Video: The Bathroom

Answer:Usually no.

A grab bar, sometimes called an assist bar, is secured to a surface that’s backed by a wooden stud. That way, the bar won’t detach when gripped, such as to prevent a fall. (Suction-cup handles are not suitable substitutes.)

A grab bar’s placement will vary based on the space or a resident’s needs. In general, a horizontal bar near the toilet and in the shower and tub should be 33 to 36 inches from the floor. Bathtubs are safest with two bars, the second on the long wall, 9 inches from the tub rim. Grab bars with a textured, nonslip surface are best.

A vertical grab bar helps with balance and is easiest to grip. A horizontal placement helps with forward and backward movements. A diagonal installation is useful for getting into a seated or standing position. Grab bars are increasingly available in decorative, dual-purpose styles — and some do include a towel bar.