Kitchen Remodeling Ideas for Seniors
A kitchen should do more than just serve as a space for cooking. It should also have a dedicated space for washing, cleaning, and storing dishes, utensils, and cookware. But more importantly, the design should take note of the user. Thus, here are 10 tips to make your kitchen more convenient for seniors.
Improve General Lighting
Out of every three people aged 65 and up, one would have a problem with their sense of sight. Due to how common vision is among seniors, you have to ensure that the kitchen is well-lit. This starts with the general lighting — otherwise known as downlighting.
Check the lights your kitchen currently has. If you still have old, incandescent light bulbs, replace them. Even old variants of fluorescent light bulbs need replacement. Choose new LED lights because they emit light that’s easier on the eyes.
A kitchen fit for the elderly shouldn’t have just one source of light. Install the main lighting fixture, but you should also get several others to enhance the overall illumination. This way, the seniors won’t be completely in the dark if one of the lights doesn’t work anymore.
On a related note, you should place the light switches in a familiar and easy-to-reach area. The elderly shouldn’t have to extend their arms just to turn the lights on and off. Check if the switches are hard to use or not. Replace the standard light switches with rocker light switches.
Take Note of Task Lighting
When it comes to providing better spaces for the elderly, task lighting becomes more than just a visual option. This type of lighting can help seniors find items faster than before. You see, it focuses on the specific areas where people would usually need it — whether it’s daytime or nighttime.
For example, task lighting can mean installing small lights inside drawers and cabinets. This is the answer to when the interior of a piece of furniture isn’t illuminated by the general lighting fixtures. Task lights ensure that even the inside is bright enough for the elderly to exactly what they’re looking for.
You should also place task lights under the hanging cabinets. These fixtures will cast light upon the surrounding area — that includes the sink, the floor, and any other objects. Consider installing pendant lights right above the kitchen island to let it become the focal point of the kitchen.
Check if your task lighting fixtures have a diffuser or lens. Otherwise, the light they emit won’t spread evenly around the room. This will then cause hot spots that may inconvenience seniors.
Illuminate the Ceiling
Lighting should also involve the uppermost portions of the kitchen. This is known as uplighting. It serves both aesthetic and functional purposes. It achieves the former because of how it makes people look up the ceiling as well. As for the latter, uplighting helps spread the light throughout the room.
Similar to downlighting, uplighting fixtures should utilize LED lights. If these aren’t available, look for T5 lamps. These are smaller than T8 lighting fixtures but they provide more light to compact sections of the kitchen. The brighter the ceiling, the more light is reflected around the area.
You should implement uplighting fixtures even if the cabinets do not reach the ceiling. In fact, this makes it more important. If you don’t put any lights above these pieces of furniture, a portion of the light gets blocked. You cannot just rely on natural sunlight to keep your kitchen bright enough for the elderly.
Better Storage Placement
Instead of buying expensive adjustable cabinets, why not just place the items in more accessible areas? You don’t even have to spend any money. Place cookware such as pots and pans in easy-to-reach cabinets. Don’t place the items that seniors would usually use on the cabinets located at the top.
Placing the most frequently used items in lower areas will help the elderly find what they need without having to exert a lot of effort. This is also essential if the seniors are in wheelchairs. However, don’t put them so low that seniors would have to bend their knees and backs.
The ideal height for the storage placement is between the level of the waist and the shoulder areas. If you do have some money, you can buy inserts for the cabinets and drawers. Keeping the items organized inside will help seniors know exactly where they can find things.
You can even have pull-out drawers and pull-down shelves. The former allows seniors to see the items better thanks to general lighting and even natural daylight. On the other hand, the latter feature will help them grab items located in upper areas — they won’t have to use a stool anymore.
Have a Relatively Short Kitchen Island
The kitchen island is the main attraction of the room, but it doesn’t have to be tall and grand. In fact, a smaller kitchen island is better for seniors. Look for one that is around 30 inches height. This will help seniors who are in wheelchairs or who are suffering back problems use the area with relative ease.
Still, the height matters on the height of the senior citizens. If they are quite tall and have no need for wheelchairs, you can opt for the standard 36-inch-high kitchen island. But we don’t recommend the 42-inch variants since seniors will eventually get shorter in height as their bones weaken.
Use Built-In Appliances
The benefit of using built-in appliances is that they use space in a smart manner. Thus, the elderly won’t have to deal with a cluttered countertop — the microwaves all have their own fixed locations. Plus, you won’t put seniors in harm’s way when the electrical appliances get too close to wet areas.
In case you eventually buy more kitchen appliances, place them far from the sink. Ideally, the seniors will follow the initial placement and not place them in spots prone to getting wet. Also, get appliances with large buttons and labels that are big enough for seniors to read.
Avoid Slippery Floors
You should apply the kitchen floor with an anti-skid floor texture additive. The risk of a senior slipping on the floor is not impossible, especially when it’s in a room with wet food, drinks, and a sink area. Look for floor areas that often get wet and place anti-fatigue on them.
One floor material to consider is engineered vinyl planks, which look like hardwood but are completely waterproof. Also, avoid placing anything on the floor. If the surface is not free of clutter, a senior may trip over some items and get seriously hurt.
There are many aspects that can make a kitchen safer to use for seniors. Apart from lighting, you have to take note of anti-glare countertops, contrasting colors, and convenient storage options. Don’t rush into remodeling the kitchen. Take your time and consider the needs and constraints of the seniors.
An Ergonomic Sink
Even if elders don’t go to the kitchen to cook, they might use it to wash the dishes or their hands. It’s important to pick a faucet design that isn’t hard to use. Ensure that it’s placement makes it easy to reach. Pick one that releases water with a single turn or push — the simpler, the better.
Second, think about the sprayer attachments. The seniors may need it to wash and prepare their vegetables and fruits for their meals. Even if they don’t, a sprayer attachment makes washing the dishes faster and easier. Get one that’s relatively light and easy to both place and remove.
For people who use cold and hot water, ensure that the latter isn’t too hot. Remember that the elderly are likelier to experience scalds or scald burns at home. In particular, they may experience them in the bathroom and the kitchen. Thus, it’s essential to set the hot water temperature to lukewarm levels.
Moreover, the structure of the sink and the area around it needs adjustments. If there are seniors who are in wheelchairs, consider getting a sink with a height-adjusting feature. But if this is too costly or time-consuming to accomplish, you can just get rid of the space under the sink instead.
Better lighting isn’t the only way to help seniors navigate the kitchen well. If you take the color of the surface and pieces of furniture into consideration, you can create significant contrasts. For example, you can have white or any light-colored drawers and cabinets if you have a dark kitchen floor.
This kind of visual contrast helps seniors know how near or far they are from the furniture. If you’re unsure which colors to use for your kitchen, consider pastel or muted tones. Calmer shades of blue, green, and grey are more pleasing to the eyes while wooden cabinets evoke a classic aesthetic.
Moreover, you can install lighting at the base of the kitchen furniture. This further differentiates the surface from the cabinets through visual cues.
Having all the aforementioned types of lighting is essential, but you should also watch out for glare. If the light reflects too much, glaring occurs and the elderly would find it difficult to see properly. You must find a balance between having a well-lit kitchen and one that doesn’t suffer from constant glares.
One way to counter glare is to look for matte surfaces. Stone countertops usually reflect light, but you can find variants designed to minimize glare. Another option is to replace your countertop with one made of concrete — this type won’t cause any glares whatsoever.