Aging in place can be a great comfort to senior adults, especially when necessary renovations make familiar surroundings more accessible. That’s particularly true in the kitchen, which is a bustling place during meal preparation and the center of family life.
For starters, an open kitchen floorplan is a big help to a family member using a wheelchair or walker. It makes turning around easier and helps when more than one person is using the space. It also keeps disabled family members a part of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Pro tip: Make sure all doorways are at least 36 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair.
Lowered counters and cabinets are easier to use and make the sink more accommodating. A pedestal sink or inset cabinets give wheelchair users better access to the faucet. Shallow sinks make dishwashing easier.
Cabinets with pull-out drawers allow the less-abled person to pull contents toward them, not having to lean and reach to the back. Lazy Susan carousels, especially in corner cabinets, are also a help. Lowered upper cabinets make them more accessible for reaching.
Handles on the sink should be lever type, even the single, pivoting lever that controls flow and temperature together. Handles on drawers should be the round edged “D” shape that are easy to grab and don’t have points that can snag clothing. Cabinet pulls should be large enough that they don’t require using fine motor skills.
Consider a shorter cooktop stove with front-mounted controls that are highly visible and accessible. An indicator light is a nice safety feature, reminding the cook what burners have been used recently. Having a swinging faucet mounted near the stove means less need to carry water from sink to stove top.
A separate oven with a pull-out surface tailored to a disabled person’s needs makes it easier to pull hot dishes from the oven.
Side-by-side refrigerators take up less room when doors are swung open, allowing disabled persons more room to get around. Deep doors capable of holding jugs of juice or milk are also helpful. Long vertical handles on both fridge and freezer offer plenty of grip places.
Microwave ovens mounted just below counter height make them more easily accessible and don’t take up counter space.
Flooring must be an anti-slip surface. Throw rugs and area rugs are a no-no. Consider providing elderly family members with an alarm worn around the neck in case of a fall.
Lighting is important to keep all areas safe. Track lights that shine on appliances illuminate work stations. Lowered light switches provide accessibility to everyone.