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Aging in Place: Designing Safe & Accessible Kitchens

October 29, 2019

Everybody grows older, and with age comes new challenges. For many, this may include the challenge of staying in their own home. With old age, using normal interior features such as drawers and stairs may become taxing or even impossible, and people may find themselves struggling with day-to-day activities.

This is not a struggle you need to face unprepared. With proper steps, creating a living space for changing age and ability level is possible – and something the KBC design team is prepared to help you with.

This concept is called aging in place, which the CDC defines as “the ability to live in one’s home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

General Guidelines

There are a few design choices that are relevant to all rooms in the home. These include keeping an open floor plan with few obstructions, avoiding tripping hazards, and installing bright, long-lasting LED lighting. Doors should have lever-style handles for ease of use. They should also have a minimum width of 36 inches to allow walkers and wheelchairs in the case of mobility issues down the road. In the same vein, all entries should be no-step or have ramps installed.

Designing your Kitchen

At KBC, our expertise is in kitchen design, so we’re especially prepared to redesign your kitchen for aging in place. We feel that the focus should be on accessibility, ease of use, and mobility. The kitchen is one of the most important spaces in your home. You’ll probably be using it at least once or twice every day, and everybody knows being in the kitchen can be hard work. Therefore, we’ll want to make design choices that limit strain on your body and mind, providing a stress-free physical and mental experience.

Visibility

One of the most important things to consider is eyesight. Simple features such as large windows, under-cabinet lighting, and directed task lighting can make life a lot easier. You also want to make smart color choices to maximize visibility. If you’re interested in reading more about this, check out this article by Kitty Shea about color perception and the aging eye.

Reachability

Whether high, low, or just far away, reaching for things is something that can become very difficult as you grow older. We must consider this when making choices of appliances, cabinetry, and other storage. Your microwave and sink should be at accessible heights, with a shallow sink to limit the need for bending over. Front-mounted stove controls are a must. Cabinets should be adjusted to lower heights, and lazy susans are helpful for increasing reachability.

Check out these basic examples from Coburg Senior Housing in Clifton Park, NY to see what this looks like.

Mobility

Proper kitchen design for aging in place shouldn’t have you constantly moving around. This means that you should keep related things close together. The sink should be close to the stove, with appliances located close together in a work area. This limits the need to move and reach around the kitchen, thus avoiding unnecessary physical stress.

Usability

It’s also important to think of the simple things that can improve day-to-day life. D-shaped cabinet pulls are easiest to use for many ability levels. If you might struggle with grip, consider a hands-free faucet. A side swing or wall oven might be the right choice depending on the space.

No matter your age or situation, we’ll work with you to fit your style and needs and help you plan for the future before it becomes urgent. Let KBC Design Studio create your new kitchen and take away some of the stress of growing older.