5 Aging in Place Kitchen Design Tips

By: Mr Handyman of The Woodlands | Published 05/07/2024


A conventional residential kitchen isn't designed to meet the needs of those aging in place. A typical kitchen can be difficult to navigate for seniors relying on walkers or wheelchairs. Conventional hard-surface floors can contribute to slips and falls, resulting in a potentially debilitating hard landing. The kitchen is also fraught with other hazards like hot surfaces, slippery counters, and tile. 

Upgrade to an aging-in-place kitchen design, and you create a safe, user-friendly place to cook, dine, and socialize. Additional space, reduced clutter, and increased accessibility can help older adults be self-sufficient. Updated, user-friendly modifications can require professional remodeling, but the investment produces a return beyond comfort and independence. Older adults feel independent and in control when they feel safe and self-reliant.

1. Make It Easy to Move Around

Conventional residential construction includes standard door sizes in most homes. While the standard width is fine in most circumstances, it can be a barrier for older adults relying on wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Widening the kitchen and other doorways will provide safe and easy access from room to room. Because the reconfigurations are structural, it's essential to hire only professionals who understand the unique needs of seniors. 

This updated kitchen design for seniors is the first step in creating a safe and usable space. Floors should be free of electrical cords, mats, runners, and any other potential tripping hazards. Non-slip ceramic or water-resistant luxury vinyl floors are an ideal alternative to slick kitchen floors for firmer footing. Kitchen designs for seniors in wheelchairs should also include clearance of at least 42 inches around islands, counters, and cabinets.  

2. Make It Easy to Reach

Declining eyesight, decreased mobility, and less agility make climbing and reaching a struggle. Step stools and grabbers can help older adults reach everyday kitchen items, but these aids can be restrictive. A better and safer solution would be to modify cabinet height, add pull-out shelves, and implement other accessibility changes. Kitchen cabinets installed a few inches lower than conventional cabinet height can help seniors stay on firm ground. Pull-out and pull-down shelves provide quicker access to frequently used items than traditional shelves. 

Professionals can lower counters, sinks, and other kitchen surfaces to accommodate those who work from a seated position. A hands-free or lever-activated kitchen faucet and pull-down sprayer can increase convenience and accessibility. Consider options with rounded corners and edges and a durable, low-maintenance surface material when replacing counters. When considering kitchen design for the elderly, easy access is the key to safety and enjoyment.   

3. Make It Easy to See

Adequate lighting is essential for older adults with limited vision, especially in the kitchen. Bright lighting helps prevent eye strain and accidents, and under-counter options provide light for workspaces. Light switches should be conveniently located and preferably be user-friendly, paddle-style switches. Another option is to install motion-activated light switches or smart lights that can be controlled with a voice-activated smartphone app. When upgrading lighting for aging in place, a mix of artificial and natural light is optimal.  

Seniors, especially those living alone, need natural light for mental and emotional well-being. For kitchens with windows, consider remote-control blinds to manage the amount of sunlight. Another practical and convenient option is to have a skylight installed. Skylights can bathe the kitchen in light when the sun's out and help seniors save on utility costs. Consider investing in a skylight with smart technology to manage the amount of light coming in. 

4. Make It Easy to Use Appliances

Installing grab bars and reconfiguring access to microwaves and other small appliances can make using appliances more manageable. A kitchen with support posts and other modifications provides a helping hand to steady seniors when they use the oven and stovetop. Wall ovens are another option for making cooking safer and more enjoyable. These ovens can be installed at the ideal height so there is less bending and reaching. Adding a pull-out counter beneath the oven provides another solution for reducing spills and accidents.  

Traditional stove tops can be dangerous and challenging to keep clean. A smooth top range with front-mounted knobs offers faster cleanup, improved safety, and it can be installed at the most accessible height. They also make the transition less risky when removing hot pots and pans from the stovetop to the counter. If a new fridge is on the horizon, consider a side-by-side design for easy accessibility.

5. Make It Easy to Clean

When designing an ergonomic and user-friendly kitchen design for the elderly, it’s also essential that it’s easy to clean. For example, when upgrading flooring to provide improved traction, consider the maintenance required and how easy it is to keep clean. While granite and other high-end countertops are beautiful and elegant, they require maintenance and specific cleaning methods that can be difficult for seniors. There are many options for beautiful countertop materials that are a breeze to clean and require almost no maintenance. 

Another way to simplify cleaning the kitchen is to relocate the typical under-the-sink cleaning supplies to a space within easy reach. Repurpose the under-sink storage area by installing a slide-out trash can or slide-out shelves. Invest in cleaning equipment that's easy to handle and provides extra reach to make daily cleaning less taxing. Lightweight cordless vacuums, microfiber dusters with an extension feature, and long-handled scrub brushes make light work of kitchen cleanup.

Ready to Make Your Kitchen Senior-Friendly?

When we make homes less challenging and safer, seniors can enjoy increased mobility and live the independent lives they love. Ready to transform your kitchen into a streamlined, user-friendly space? Mr. Handyman is uniquely qualified to provide handyman services designed for aging in place, featuring professionals with an average of 10 years of experience. 

Whether you need kitchen design, remodeling, home repair, or maintenance, every service includes the Neighborly Done Right Promise™ for peace of mind. Learn how your local Mr. Handyman can make aging-in-place kitchen design easier when you get a customized estimate today.

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