A timely kitchen remodeling plan can take advantage of a trend in today’s culture called Aging In Place. The kitchen has always been the spot for the family to gather, and making changes to the kitchen space can greatly increase its usability and the safety for years to come. With even slight modifications, people will no longer have to spend less time in the kitchen as they age. In Madison WI the aging population is looking to “right-size” their homes, and make them more accommodating as their needs and abilities change.
Aging In Place Kitchen Ideas to Consider
Cabinets and Drawers — Access to storage can be one of the main obstacles for people as they age and aren’t able to reach, stoop, climb or kneel as they once could. A kitchen remodeling plan should take these elements into consideration as a top priority. Consider these kitchen ideas:
- Lower Cabinets — Adding pull out shelves can reduce the strain of bending over to reach items stored in the back, and they utilize maximum available space. Consider cabinets without doors for items that are used often. To make use of corners, install lazy-susan type shelves for easier access.
- Upper Cabinets — Shelves that pull out and pull down in the upper cabinets can reduce the amount of reaching required. In some cases, installing new cabinets that are closer to the counters is a good choice – as little as three inches lower can make a big difference.
- Doors and Drawers — Adding “D” shaped pulls/handles instead of knobs will allow people of all abilities to open and close the cabinets more easily.
Countertops — Changing out counters is almost always a “must do” during kitchen remodeling. To cater to seniors, choose a counter configuration that increases the usability and function. That may include multi-level countertops that allow people of different abilities the option to use the countertop that is most comfortable. For example, install some countertops at the standard 36-inch height and have a portion at 30 inches for people who want to sit while working. And, install counters that have rounded edges and corners, lessening the chance of injury on sharp corners.
Lighting — Proper lighting is a key to creating safe, usable space. It helps prevent accidents, makes tasks easier and helps reduce eye strain. A kitchen remodeling project can strive for a good mix of artificial light and sunlight. Rocker-type switches are easy for everyone to use.
Flooring — Falls hospitalize elderly people more often than any other threat, so a flooring choice is important. Sort out the options — some are functional, some visually appealing and some both.
Sinks — Adjusting the height and/or location of the sink can make a big difference in your kitchen remodeling scheme. Perhaps add a roll-under sink to accommodate a wheelchair or just to make it comfortable for someone who cannot stand for extended periods. There are even motorized, adjustable height counters/sinks. Since a significant part of the work in a kitchen happens at the sink, having one that is easy to use is very important. Consider a shallow sink – 6 inches deep – to make getting to the bottom an easier reach. And, use a hands-free or lever-handled faucet, mounted on the side to limit reaching.
Appliances — Appliances can dictate a person’s ability to use and work in the kitchen. Select appliances that display information clearly, have convenient functions and are easy to use. Many appliance makers incorporate universal design principles to allow consumers to more easily move from one appliance to another without relearning control panels, etc.
- Refrigerators — Today’s options for refrigerators and freezer make them easy to use and efficient. Consider these features
- Illuminated water and ice dispensers on the outside of the door
- Large numbers and letters on displays
- Long, continuous door handles for multiple gripping points
- Good lighting inside the refrigerator
- Increased storage on the door, including room for gallon jugs
- Top-mount refrigerators that have freezer storage on the bottom for easy access
- A Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer for easy access to both compartments.
- Some models offer slide out and see through shelves and bins, which can make items easier to see and reach
Cooktops — Safety is the number one concern, making cooktops an excellent choice as they cool much faster than standard ranges and have smooth tops, which allow for easy transition from the stove to the counter. And, they can be installed at a variety of heights for comfortable use. Convenience features include:
- Color indicators when the burners are on or still hot, even when the cooktop is off
- Front-mounted controls so you won’t need to lean over hot burners
- Large numbers on a well-lit display
Wall Ovens — Wall ovens can be mounted in a variety of locations and at convenient heights. They can be installed so an interior rack lines up with the adjacent countertop, which will limit the amount of lifting or bending.
Microwave Ovens — Microwaves are a mainstay in the kitchens and can be installed at a height that everyone can reach and make for easy transition to counters. Some models offer one-touch cooking or beep (with visual indicators) that the food is finished cooking or needs to be stirred.
Dishwashers — A dishwasher is not a luxury item, especially for the aging population. They are a requirement for people who have difficulties standing for long periods of time.
- Many models offer one-touch operation and have cycle choices for smaller loads
- Look for dishwashers that are easy to use and have clear, easy to read displays
- Shy away from levers to “lock” the dishwasher door, they might cause problems for some
- Consider installing the dishwasher well above the floor – raising a dishwasher reduces the amount of bending and reaching required
These are all kitchen ideas for an overall kitchen remodeling plan for senior citizens who want to modify their homes to accommodate their future needs. When it comes to kitchen ideas, here are general considerations as well:
- Install smoke alarms
- Keep an appropriate and up-to-date fire extinguisher in the kitchen
- Use small electric appliances that have an auto-shutoff function
- 42 to 48 inches of clearance is recommended to allow access through kitchen pathways by everyone, including those in wheelchairs.
- Doorways should be a minimum of 36 inches wide
Call Westring Construction at 608-441-5435 or email us to help you get a better understanding of the kitchen remodeling process and new kitchen ideas for Aging in Place in Madison WI.