Fall is in the air. The leaves on the trees are changing color, the air is crisp, and most of us are starting to spend more time indoors. The sights and smells of autumn always include cooking or baking in the kitchen. If you enjoy spending time in your kitchen, it is important that you can move about the kitchen, and easily and safely use all of its features. A Universally Designed kitchen will be a delight to use and most of the special features will blend seamlessly into the kitchen and only be noticeable as they make the kitchen easier to use. I am going to expand on some of these features here, but remember, to get the most out of your kitchen; a customized consultation is your best bet.
The first thing I recommend looking at is space. Make sure that there is enough room to get around. To have room to negotiate the space in a wheelchair if that ever becomes necessary, it is best to have a five foot radius turning circle and four foot wide corridors between cabinets. In many homes, this is difficult to do without adding on but can sometimes be accomplished by opening up the kitchen into other rooms of the house or reconfiguring the floor plan. In order to accommodate people of different heights as well as those who want or need to use the kitchen in a seated position, I recommend adjustable or varied height countertops. Having open knee space under the sink, cooktop, and open counter areas allows someone in a seated position to use these areas more easily. Appliances need to be easily accessed. I generally raise the dishwasher 8-12” off the floor, install a wall oven adjacent to a countertop so that dishes can be slid out of the oven onto the countertop, and keep knobs, switches and controls near the front where they can be easily reached. In order to make cabinets easily accessible, I use a variety of rollout shelves in the lower cabinets and pull down shelves in the upper cabinets. There are also systems that mechanically lower the wall cabinets to countertop level at the push of a button! Lazy susans or pullout shelving units in the corner units makes access much simpler.
Lighting is an important consideration for safety and ease of use. Most of the time our eyesight diminishes as we grow older, so bright, glare free lighting is very important. Having contrasting colors on the edges of countertops and other surfaces helps those with diminished eyesight work more safely in the kitchen. Installing non slip flooring is important to help prevent falls and installing grab bars in strategic places will go a long way to help promote safety. Just remember that you can retain your independence in your own home and enjoy your kitchen throughout your life. For more information or to see what we can do to transform your kitchen, give us a call at (540) 384-2064.
Solid Rock has written many articles for Housing Matters, including subject matter for Retirement, Enjoying the Outdoors and Aging In Place. Please visit our Housing Matters Index of articles here.