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Elderly couple in kitchen

“Aging-in-place” is widely considered to be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective routes to take for individuals who prefer to remain in their home for the long haul, instead of moving around as their family and individual needs change. You do this by upgrading or remodeling your home using aging-in-place standards (also referred to as “universal design principles”).
Among the many areas of the home in which aging-in-place standards could be implemented, the kitchen stands out as one of the most important, because it’s one of the most frequently used rooms in the house. So if you’re ready to settle down in your home or if you’re remodeling to accommodate elderly residents, here are five aging-in-place modifications to keep in mind for the kitchen.

1. Location

The kitchen should be easily accessible, and located on the main level of the home. Some floor plans require an individual to step up or down into a separate area to get to the kitchen; if this is the case, consider remodeling in order to make the kitchen as easy to enter and exit as possible.

2. Sink Height and Location

Since the sink is one of the most frequently visited areas of the kitchen, it’s vital to have a sink that’s easy to use. If an occupant is wheelchair-bound, a roll-under sink can be installed to increase accessibility.

Motorized, adjustable-height sinks/counters are also available that allow a wheelchair-bound occupant easier access and usability. This is also a helpful feature for any occupant who has trouble bending or reaching to access the sink; with the push of a button, the sink and counters can be raised or lowered to match their comfort level. Below are some other key modifications to make:

  • Installing a shallow sink (approx. 6″ deep) will be better for those who have trouble bending or reaching.
  • Lever-handled or hands-free faucets are preferable to minimize reaching and/or straining to twist faucet handles open.
  • Install an anti-scald device to prevent burn injuries from hot water.
3. Cabinets

Lower cabinets can be fitted with pull-out shelves to prevent strain from bending and reaching. Installing shallow cabinets will help as well, as it will make it easier for occupants to reach the back of cabinets. Pull-down shelves can be installed in upper cabinets for greater accessibility. In addition, installing “D”-shaped handles/pulls on drawers and cabinet doors will allow occupants to open and close cabinets with greater ease.

4. Appliances

Choose appliances that incorporate universal design principles, not only for ease of use, but also for the sake of safety. Many appliance manufacturers have begun to adopt universal design standards to offer customers more versatility and functionality with their appliance choices. Choose appliances that are easy to use, have large information displays, and offer simple and convenient functions.

5. Refrigerators

Here are some suggested features to help increase refrigerator usability:

  • Make sure that the interior lighting of the refrigerator is bright to increase visibility
  • Longer door handles will provide several grip points for greater accessibility
  • Refrigerators with a side-by-side freezer (instead of a top/bottom model) will make it easier for occupants to access both areas
  • Choose models that have slide-out and clear or transparent shelves and bins for easier access and visibility