People don’t want to talk about aging, and they don’t want to think about remodeling their kitchen to meet future needs. Mobility and reach are important though, and a good kitchen needs to take into account the people who use it the most. Redesigning the kitchen for the days when you aren’t so limber is just good planning, and hopefully you will make some of those plans before that day arrives.
The terms accessibility and universal design have become buzz words in the remodeling world. Universal design means that every room should be accessible to every family member. The very young and the very old are most apt to have trouble navigating the adult world. Children easily adapt and eventually move away, but older people spend more time working within the confines of their own homes. It is for this reason that we think about remodeling as a way to make life safer and easier for ourselves and the seniors in our families.
Ana Veciana-Suarez (McClatchy-Tribune News Service: Washington, January 25, 2010) interviewed a kitchen designer for her article. The designer suggested ways to make a kitchen safer and more convenient for older people. Start by asking yourself a few simple questions before redoing your kitchen (or even before cleaning out drawers and cabinets).
- How can I make my life easier?
- What items do I use daily?
- How can I maximize the kitchen layout but allow room enough to actually cook?
Safety should be the number one concern. You can spend a fortune and still end up with a kitchen that is not going to meet your changing needs. Remodeling a kitchen is about more than granite counters and wood block tables. A kitchen needs to be designed for the cook, and that is most likely you. Safety means that you are looking at ways to minimize burning, scalding, spilling and breaking.
How are you going to do this? Uncluttering your kitchen, the author says, is the safest thing that you can do. I am a big offender here and I am willing to bet that you are too. If you look around your kitchen you are probably going to find a lot of things that don’t belong there. Don’t stack things on the counters and don’t store anything that you use regularly on high shelves. Any item that you don’t use regularly needs to moved to a pantry or closet elsewhere. Her suggestion was to tag every item in your kitchen with red tape. Remove the tape when you use that item. If after six months there are still red tags it means you should store those appliances or dishes elsewhere or give them away. Her next suggestion was that you should splurge on good lighting, especially under cabinet lighting.
Don’t assume that redesigning your kitchen is all about grab bars, neutral colors and boring cabinets. Universal design is big business these days. Accessibility does not mean that you can’t have the attractive but functional kitchen of your dreams.
Allan Appel (Beaumont Enterprise: Beaumont, Texas. Nov 24, 2006) agrees that there is more to a kitchen than merely cooking dinner. He gives a few practical suggestions that do not require a complete make-over. I think you will agree that ovens and stoves should have front-mounted controls so that you aren’t reaching over hot burners. Smooth cook tops have been in vogue for sometime. You must admit that it is easier to move pots and pans than lifting them over raised coils. You need to be able to transfer items from stove to counters easily. Pantry storage should have easy access pullout drawers and adjustable shelves. Kitchen sinks with single lever faucets are easier to operate. A countertop microwave is better than a wall mounted one. It provides a landing space for hot dishes and is easier to reach if a wheelchair or cane is used. Safety and ease of use are the focus of a good solid kitchen makeover.