With age, even simple tasks can become difficult. Throw navigating through slippery floors, digging through deep drawers and poor lighting into the mix, the kitchen can instantly become a scary space.
If your elderly parents are living with you, or by themselves, it is probably best to remodel the kitchen. A well-organized household makes life easier for those who prefer to live independently. Plus, being able to take care of everyday tasks on their own enhances their mood and self-esteem.
When you design a kitchen with these vision in mind, the following 5 kitchen design tips would help make the kitchen safer and easier to navigate for your elderly living parents.
1. Bright Lights
A well-lit kitchen is a safe kitchen for elderly living parents. With worsening eyesight, insufficient lighting can be dangerous when they are working with knives and hot appliances.
Therefore, you should make sure there is adequate lighting especially in the high traffic areas of the kitchen. Under-cabinet lighting will help to illuminate work areas that would otherwise be dark.
Natural light as well as a combination of ceiling, sink and countertop lights will help the elderly spot and access items better. Having the right lighting in the kitchen would ultimately prevent accidents, create a more suitable work environment and reduce eye strain.
2. Functional Countertops
Choose a countertop that is in a different color from the kitchen cabinets. Also make sure the edges are of different shade as this distinction in color tones will make it easier for weak eyes to spot things.
If your elderly parent is wheelchair-bound, then consider lowering the countertops so it is easier for them to work from a seated position. Otherwise, a high corner table or kitchen island will be a cheaper solution as it probably fits a wheelchair underneath and is at the right height for food preparation.
Countertops should have rounded edges. The last thing you want is to hit your hip or elbow on a sharp corner as you move around your kitchen. Round edges will reduce the likelihood of bumps and bruises.
3. Accessible Storage
A zero-cost accessible upgrade to the kitchen is to evaluate item arrangement. In this case, pull-out drawers would provide hassle-free access to elderly parents.
It is much safer for them to pull drawers towards them instead of having to crouch down to search inside a lower cabinet or using a step stool to get things in higher cabinets.
The best part about drawers is that they display all your kitchenware and utensils at once, which allows for easy grabbing. You don’t have to get on your knees and peer into the back of the cabinet to see what’s available.
Alternatively, choose open shelves to store frequently-used items like spices and cookware. Don't forget to lower its height so elders can get them with ease.
4. Wall-Mounted Appliances
Microwaves and ovens usually eat up a lot of space in kitchen due to their considerable size. On top of that, placing them near wet areas might pose a safety risk. Hence, wall-mounted appliances are preferred because they allow installation at a convenient height.
Whether the microwave is free-standing or built-in, placing it at or below counter height is best for elderly parents' back since it reduces the frequency of bending and reaching above their shoulders.
If you don’t want to sacrifice counter space, the next best solution is to insert the microwave under the counter. In this way, you can easily set a heavy plate down below you rather than lifting it up.
5. Safe Floors
The floor can easily be overlooked because changing it possibly implies an incoming significant kitchen renovation. Nevertheless, make it the top priority for the sake of your elderly parents because spills that are not easily cleaned can lead to slips and falls.
If you have vitrified tiles or marble flooring, the risk from falls should be taken seriously. Anti-skid flooring will give elders a better grip while walking, and won’t cause mishaps even if they use a walker.
Furthermore, you should make sure the floors are slip-resistant. Use non-slip flooring tiles that are made with a slightly gritty texture to prevent falls from slipping. For instance, vinyl flooring can offer good slip resistance and it is softer on your feet as well.
The kitchen is the heart of the home, but when someone is unable to safely or easily move through this important hub, life becomes difficult. Thus, it is of utmost importance to make kitchen a safer space for your elderly parents.
As you can see, minor tweaks can often make huge differences. When you can think of an area of the kitchen that might pose a threat to your parents, you will be able to adapt the work area in ways that can make independent living easier and safer.
Of course, if your budget is sufficient, you can do a lot to fully customize the kitchen to be accessible to the needs of your elderly living parents. However, the very concept is to make living and work spaces equally comfortable, safe, and accessible for all.
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