While most people have a good idea of what their dream kitchen might look like, some people are retired before they can afford kitchen remodeling. As older age presents its own special set of challenges, homeowners who remodel a kitchen at this stage of life will want to take into account the special needs of seniors and anticipate any changes in mobility or daily function. Keeping in mind the transitional nature of aging ensures that a newly remodeled kitchen isn’t quickly outdated and can be used well into the homeowners’ twilight years. Fortunately, there are many ways to ensure that style and functionality blend seamlessly in a kitchen that caters to retirees.
A Well-Designed Kitchen Layout
When designing a kitchen for seniors, flexibility is key. A homeowner’s transition to a senior lifestyle and changing level of functionality should inform the choice of everything from appliances to cabinetry. While creating an adjustable, accommodating kitchen layout that prioritizes safety might not seem entirely necessary now, in a few years, these very features could be an important factor in extending homeowner self-sufficiency.
Here are a few considerations when redesigning the kitchen for the golden years.
- Move items to at least waist height. Moving kitchen items off the floor will ensure that knees, hips, and backs aren’t strained by everyday kitchen activities. Seniors may not be as flexible as younger homeowners, so minimizing bending and lifting should be a priority. Moving frequently-used items to waist- or eye-level will ensure that appliances, work surfaces, and kitchen tools remain accessible.
For example, building an oven into a wall minimizes the bending and crouching associated with floor-level ovens. Baking will become much easier at this level, as will oven cleaning and maintenance. Burners can be built into a counter-level cooktop for ease of access.
- Plan for pull-out shelves and storage. Pull-out shelving prevents kneeling or squatting to reach into the back of a cabinet. This type of shelving is generally installed using rollers in lower cabinets and adds a touch of luxury to any kitchen due to its beauty and functionality. A kitchen remodeling professional in Livonia can recommend pull-out shelving that works for seniors’ needs.
Pull-out trash storage under cabinets not only hides unsightly garbage cans in the kitchen area but also prevents having to bend over to throw away garbage or to lift the disposable garbage bag out of the trash can.
- Modify work aisles and passageways. To optimize future mobility, plan kitchen work aisles and passageways that are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, canes, or other mobility tools and accessories. Work aisles with counters or appliances on both sides should be at least 40 inches wide to accommodate wheelchairs. Kitchen islands, bench seating, and cabinetry should be planned to create room to maneuver, including turning and backing up. If an aisle or walkway turns a corner, the aisle space should be widened to 42 inches so that a wheelchair can make the turn. If there will be more than one senior using the kitchen area at a time, aisles should be planned accordingly.
● Keep knee space requirements in mind. Wherever possible, a kitchen plan for seniors who anticipate wheelchair use should provide knee space for a seated user below or next to sinks, dishwashers, ranges, cooktops, ovens, and refrigerators. To accommodate a seated user in a wheelchair, knee space below counters should be approximately 30 inches wide, 27 inches high, and 19 inches deep.
- Eliminate tripping and slipping hazards. Make sure that any potential tripping hazards, such as garbage cans, recycling bins, and temporary shelving or carts, have been removed from the floor area of a kitchen remodeling plan and more fully integrated into hidden, protected areas such as under-cabinet storage or permanent kitchen islands. Slipping hazards such as area rugs should be replaced with non-skid rugs or other options that encourage traction and safety.
- Consider proximity to other rooms and spaces. When designing a kitchen remodeling plan for seniors in Livonia, it makes sense that the kitchen and dining areas be as close together as possible. This will reduce the number of steps it takes to carry heavy items, such as prepared dishes, from the kitchen to the table. Reducing steps will become an important consideration for seniors as they age; it also provides an element of convenience for homeowners of any age.
Fixtures and Details That Make Life Easier
Carefully thought-out kitchen fixtures and small details can greatly enhance a kitchen remodeling plan for seniors in Clarkston. These conveniences that are appreciated by homeowners now may become necessary built-in functionality in the years to come.
- Motion-sensitive faucets add an elegant touch to any modern space, but they also add a great deal of convenience for older homeowners. Hands weakened by arthritis or time will appreciate the easy-on, easy-off functionality, and even younger homeowners appreciate the time savings and cleanliness that motion-sensitive faucets provide.
- Under-cabinet lighting. Lighting under cabinets enhances the look of any kitchen, adding an elegant touch and increasing visibility. Seniors with visual issues will be especially pleased with the extra brightness in food preparation areas that under-cabinet lighting can provide.
- Easy-grip cabinet and drawer handles and pulls. Choosing cabinet handles and knobs that enhance the grip is a must for a kitchen planned for seniors and the elderly. As grip strength wanes, easy-to-open drawers and cabinets will become a particularly welcome feature.
- Rounded countertop edges and cabinet corners. Wherever possible, eliminate sharp corners and edges that could cause easy bruising or scraping for elderly homeowners. Countertops with rounded edges, such as bull-nose or half-bull-nose styles, will provide a softer impact when inevitable accidental run-ins and bumps occur.
- Adjustable or tiered countertops. Countertops that are 36 inches in height are optimal for many people, but for those in wheelchairs or using walkers, an adjustable counter height may provide easier access to work areas. A tiered countertop on a kitchen island will allow both seated and standing users to work comfortably at the same time.
It’s Good to Be Prepared
Although the idea of growing older isn’t always an easy one to face, designing a kitchen around senior needs before they arise is a smart way to build functionality into a kitchen redesign. A kitchen remodeling professional in Clarkston can design a beautiful kitchen that will extend homeowners’ self-sufficiency and independence well into the senior years.