Home Improvement Tips for the Aging and Elderly – Part 2

How to Create a Safe Haven for Independent Living

Part 2 of 3

Kitchen Specific Improvements

Kitchen Counters and Cabinets

Like bathroom counts and cabinets, the ultimate solution for a fully accessible and safe kitchen for the elderly employs lifts, or mechanical devices that lower and raise different portions of a kitchen’s cabinets, small appliances or work top spaces. While expensive, the effect allows anyone, no matter their physical limitation, to access kitchen tools and appliances easily and is a wonderful home improvement for all ages.

If lifts aren’t an option, there are a number of other improvements you can make that will greatly increase the usability and safety of a kitchen area for an elderly or mobility impaired person.

Kitchen Counters

  • Like in bathrooms, employ varying countertop heights to enhance kitchen usability as people age. Lower counters to between 28” and 34” and ensure at least 29” of clearance (from the floor up) under the counter to allow people in wheelchairs and with walking devices to get close enough to the counter to comfortable use it.
  • The first 16” of depth in a counter, from the edge closest the user and back, is considered the most comfortable work area. Counter space behind those first 16” can be used for storage instead.
  • Use glare-free materials for counter tops so that people can easily see items placed upon them.

Kitchen Cabinets

  • Lowering higher cabinets by 3” to 5” from standard heights makes more of the shelves accessible to most people, so items are easier to access and move.
  • If possible install easy access features like rolling carts and baskets, lazy susans, and full extension drawer glides to cabinets to make finding and accessing items quicker and easier.
  • The use of glare-free surfaces for cabinetry improves a person’s visual ability to locate handles and knobs.

Kitchen Sinks

  • Sinks that are designed to be wheelchair accessible are usually shallow, anywhere from 5” to 6.5” deep so that the user can reach to the bottom of the sink, and to provide enough clearance under the sink for a wheelchair or other walking aid. Faucets should be ergonomic and contain a single, easy to grip control to ensure operation is simple and effortless.
  • Because a person on a wheelchair might bring their legs or lower part of their body in contact with the plumbing below the sink, it’s important that you insulate the pipes, particularly the hot water and drainage pipes, to prevent any burns from the hot water moving through them while the sink is in use.

(Continued in Part 3 of 3)