Kitchen Design Considerations For Aging In Place Remodeling

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in the home. Because it is used so much and by so many, the kitchen design is an important consideration when remodeling.  Picture this situation to get an idea what it is like to be 84 years old and still living in your own home:

You slowly amble into your kitchen to make a snack for yourself.  It feels like you have rocks in your feet so you take it slow and easy, especially since you heard that Ella down the street had slipped and broken her hip just last week.  You go to turn on the light and it still looks kind of dreary because your eyes are slightly blurred by cataracts and yellowed from natural aging.

You decide on a frozen dinner but you want a dish to put it on and the darn thing is on the top shelf.  Your arm just won’t reach that high so you have to do without and hope for the best. You try to read how long the TV dinner should be in the microwave and you just can’t make out the type because it is so darn small! You stick the tray in the microwave and push the buttons. While it is cooking, you go to get a jar of jelly from the cupboard and your stiff fingers reach in and pull it out. As you go to place it on the counter, you miss-judge the edge of the counter and the jelly jar shatters onto the tile floor and splatters on the stainless steel clad dishwasher and nearby cabinets. Sound like a nightmare? It’s not; this is just a typical day in a kitchen not designed for aging in place.

Remodeling for those who are planning to remain in their home for many years, especially those aging in place, should keep ease of maintenance in mind as they begin to design.  Consider the following areas:

Countertops: Laminate, quartz and solid surface countertops are the easiest to maintain

  • They require no sealing, no scrubbing of grout and are non-porous.
  • Use a contrasting color to the cabinetry and to the floor to assist with vision impairment.
  • Round the corners so that it is not as dangerous.

Flooring: Engineered wood, laminate (like Pergo and Armstrong floors), and linoleum are easiest to keep clean

  • They are also easier to stand on and have some “give” underfoot.
  • These types of floors do not require any sealing, stripping or refinishing.
  • Consider something that has texture for increased traction.
  • Look at the pattern and consider if dirt show quickly.
  • (Trust me on this; you don’t want it to show quickly).

Cabinetry: Easy access in addition to clean ability are the main considerations.

  • Choose styles of cabinetry without lots of ornamentation and detail.
  • Aging eyes and stiff backs make it difficult to see dirt and the ability to clean it.
  • Install drawers that slide and glide easily and have full extension hardware.
  • Install pull-outs and lazy susans in cabinetry for access.
  • Trying to get to the back of a cabinet to reach a dish is very difficult when joints are achy and knees don’t work very well.
  • Install cabinetry that has inserts with the ability to lower and rise easily.
  • Pull-down shelving for upper cabinets is a great choice.
    • As the body ages it gets very difficult to reach high above the head.
    • Using a stool to get to the higher shelves is not safe nor is it practical.
  • Install D shaped handles on cabinets to make them easier to open.
    • The three inch handles with a space behind them are the easiest to get stiff or arthritic fingers behind to grip and open.

    The above suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to designing a kitchen for those who are aging in place or looking to the future. Stay tuned for more design ideas for kitchens. 

    Want to see what the NKBA says about kitchen design? Check out their website for a design guide for everyone, not just those choosing to age in place.  Remember that any CAPS will be able to assist with design choices too.  Thanks for reading and please feel free to contact me regarding this or any of my posts.

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