Kitchen Design for Aging in Place

Home design reflects your personal tastes as well as the practical requirements of the household.  The people in the house determine the unique design requirements for that home, and those needs change over time depending on the stage of life of the residents. 

A kitchen remodeling project is no exception.  For example, a family with young children may require extra space for homework or activities, plenty of seats for dining, and a secondary snack refrigerator away from the main cooking area.  Alternately, if you are designing your kitchen for aging in place or to have elderly family members live with you, you may want to tailor your design to make it more accessible and easy to use.

Here are 7 ways to make sure your next kitchen renovation stands the test of time for aging in place:

1.       Prioritize pull outs

Pull out shelves are ideal for any kitchen design, but especially useful when you want to make it easier to identify and access items you need.  They can be incorporated into a pantry, where pull out shelves allow you to clearly see and manage food items.  Pull outs can also be used to make it easier to find and lift small appliances and kitchen tools.  Blenders, crockpots, and stand mixers are heavy and put a strain on your back, knees, and shoulders if they are not easily accessible. 

2.       Opt for drawers

Similarly, choose to add drawers for storage where possible.  Drawers are a simple way to store, organize and access utensils, pots and pans, and dishes, especially with a peg system for organizing cups, plates, and bowls.  With drawers you can view and access these items at a comfortable height that does not require reaching for an upper cabinet.

3.       Create a useful corner

A blind corner cabinet can become a black hole, especially when you are not able to crouch down to find something.  Specialized storage such as corner drawer pull outs, a door with sliding shelves, or a lazy susan allow you to access kitchen cabinets without hurting your back.

4.       Height and distance

Try to locate the microwave and other things to which you need regular access at or below counter height.  Counter height is ideal as it allows the easiest access without putting strain on your shoulders.  If counter space is at a premium then go for an under counter built in option.  Make sure your sink is close to (but not next to) the stove to make it easier to move heavy pots full of water or hot food.  You may also consider including a pot filler, allowing you to fill pots with water at the stove itself.  Position the dishwasher within easy distance too so that you can comfortably move dishes from the sink to the dishwasher.

5.       Simplify your style

Go for a simplified style that minimizes opportunities for bumps and bruises.  Opt for rounded edges on countertops and cabinets, avoid anything that juts out or makes it more difficult to navigate, and keep everything flush by only including counter depth appliances.  This simple style will also make cleaning easier, with fewer surfaces to work around.

6.       Allow ample clearance

Clearance space around kitchen cabinets and appliances is part of any well-designed kitchen layout, but it becomes especially important when you are designing for mobility issues.  If you anticipate a requirement for a wheelchair, refer to specific guidelines to get the clearance distance necessary.

7.       Slip-resistance

Kitchens are messy places, prone to spills and drips that can cause accidents.  Minimize this risk by installing a more slip resistant flooring that is easier to keep clean and dry.  Any textured flooring surface offers a better grip for steadier footing.  Fewer grout lines and a clear floor space also make it easier to keep the area clean.

If you plan to age in place in your current home or to have elderly family members around, consider tailoring your kitchen to suit these requirements so your design will stand the test of time.  Check out more kitchen design ideas in our gallery here, or contact us today to find out more.