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Kitchen Remodels for Aging in Place

by Posted on January 15, 2021

Beautiful kitchen remodel in the Glenn Eden neighborhood of Raleigh completed

Stretching and squatting, climbing and crouching–some physical movements become more difficult with age.

As a result, reaching for kitchen items stored in cupboards and on shelves can be not only challenging but dangerous. Bending can cause muscle strains; climbing or stepping up on ladders and stools can result in a fall.

Even without the risk of injury, trying to cook with inconvenient access to kitchen items is frustrating.

When older people choose to stay in their homes, remodeling the kitchen for aging-in-place greatly improves quality of life.

Here are some suggestions for designing a safer, more convenient kitchen: 

Pull-Down and Pull-Out Shelves

Making items easier to reach starts with installing upper cabinets three inches lower than standard height. Include pull-down shelves in the upper cabinets to make access even more stretch-and-strain free.

For lower cabinets, add pull out shelves for better organization. Pull-outs remove the need for and discomfort of bending. Other options for lower cabinets are drawers and lazy Susan turntables, either of which put stored items within easy reach.

Pullouts can be used to store heavy portable appliances, such as blenders, slow cookers, and toasters. Move them off the countertop, but not out of reach.

Adapting kitchen cupboards and shelves for easy access avoids the risk of straining neck and back muscles or sustaining injuries in a fall.

Countertops

Countertops can be installed in levels with heights adapted for a variety of kitchen tasks. Rounded corners on counters prevent injuries from bumping into or falling against sharp edges.

Counter designs and colors should be selected so they don’t give off glare and are easy on aging eyes.

Lighting

Plan for bright and well-placed lighting to reduce eye strain. Make sure work areas are well-illuminated, making it easy to read recipe directions and food labels. Install task lighting directly over work areas.

Flooring

Floor tiles should be textured to provide a good grip. Vinyl, wood, or linoleum flooring are usually the best options. Consider putting down anti-slip rubber mats. If using throw rugs, be sure that they are anchored in place.

Accessibility

Kitchens designed for aging in place should have extra clearance around doorways and in prep areas. Wheelchairs require at least 42 inches of clearance and walkers 36.

Safety Features

All kitchens should be designed with an eye to safety, but additional features are important for aging in place. Be sure that the kitchen has smoke and monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher. A medical alert device and cell phone should be within reach at all times.

Hire a Certified Contractor

Remodeling for aging in place can be challenging. When looking for a contractor, consider hiring a Certified Aging in Place Specialist or CAPS.  CAPS are certified through the National Association of Homebuilders. Applicants must pass three required courses to be certified.

According to a study released by the AARP Public Policy Institute, nearly 90 percent of people over age 65 want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Having a kitchen that is safe and accessible is an important part of helping seniors to age in place.