You, or possibly your parents, are not exactly spring chickens anymore and the time has come to face the fact that you need a little extra help in the kitchen.
Not a personal chef (although wouldn’t that be nice?) but in the way of kitchen design. There are plenty of add-on options for bathrooms and bedrooms (hand-rails, motion lights), but few consider their kitchen.
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to gut their kitchen and start from scratch, however.
We have created a short list of kitchen designs for seniors that can help reduce accidents and make cooking pleasurable once more.
Top 6 Kitchen Design Hacks for Seniors
- Non-Slip Floors
Perhaps one of the most common home accidents among seniors is slipping and falling. While many bathroom floors have some texture to them or are non-slip surfaces, the same is rarely true in the kitchen.
This might be a large undertaking, but it would be well worth the time and expense to replace the flooring in the kitchen with a non-slip surface made from ceramic or porcelain tile that is designed to be non-slip. You can also opt for natural stone, such as slate or travertine, which will require resealing every few years but offer excellent traction.
Avoid any type of tile that has a very shiny or glossy surface, such as glass tiles. These not only reflect light, which can be blinding to seniors, but they are generally more slippery than matte tiles.
- Bright Lights
A well-lit environment, especially the kitchen, is much safer than a darkened one. At a time in life when eyesight is deteriorating, and seniors are working with knives and flames, you want to be sure that they can see what they are doing.
The best lighting is a combination of natural light (from windows or skylights), then ceiling and under the counter lighting. Be sure windows have light coloured curtains that are easy to open. Ceiling lights are inexpensive to replace and adding under the counter lights will mean no more groping for the correct spice bottle.
You might also want to add motion sensor lights that turn on automatically when someone enters the kitchen for extra safety.
- Countertop Colour
The countertops should be a different colour than the cabinets. This simple demarcation allows weaker eyesight to see the difference allowing items to be place on the counter and not “next to” the counter.
Countertops should also have rounded edges, not square ones to prevent head or hand injuries. Also, if the elderly person relies on a wheelchair, the countertop should be lowered to 30 inches, so it is easier for them to reach it.
Replacing countertops can be expensive if you choose materials such as granite or marble, but if you simply want a colour change, consider painting the cabinets to contrast against the counter.
- Smart Cabinets
If your budget allows, consider replacing cabinets, especially bottom cabinets, with smart cabinets that pull out or have shelves that can pull out, so seniors don’t have to get down on their knees and reach back inside the bottom cabinet looking for their favourite pan.
Consider using a more open face design cabinet for frequently used items, such as pots, pans, and utensils. If replacing cabinets is too costly, you can change knobs or current handles to more senior friendly, such as the D-shape, which allows for a better hold.
You might also consider simply adding some accessories that go inside current cabinets, rather than replacing them. Many home stores offer organisational items that attach to the doors or cabinets themselves, such as lazy Susan’s, that allow you to pull out items or locate them more easily on the inside of the door.
- Remodel or Add a Pantry
If your kitchen already has a pantry, consider putting a double door on the front or removing the door entirely for ease of access.
Pantries, with easy to reach shelves, are perfect for allowing the elderly to reach cooking items and food without opening upper cabinet doors or bending down to reach bottom cabinets. Consider adding an easy pullout bottom “shelf” that works as a step stool to reach items on an upper shelf.
If your kitchen does not have a pantry, you can add one by replacing a section of cabinets and installing shelves instead.
These endeavours can be costly, but for those who are confined to a wheelchair or have difficulty bending over, they can be worth every penny.
Dishwashers, however, should be raised at least 10 inches off the ground. This can make design difficult, but not impossible. By raising the dishwasher, seniors have an easier time reaching the back of the bottom rack.
Adding or remodelling these items in the kitchen can sometimes make the difference between staying in your home or being forced to move to a retirement villa.
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