Let’s make our living spaces easier on ourselves. Our older selves will thank us. We are going to start our room-by-room review in your kitchen.
A kitchen can be one of the more challenging rooms in your home as you age. You have to move and store food, dishes, glasses, small appliances, pots and pans. You are working with potentially heavy, awkward objects and sharp knives. As your eyesight, dexterity, balance and strength diminish, tasks that were once done without a thought can become challenging.
The trick is to analyze your kitchen space to find ways to make it easier to use and move around. Those 42-inch cabinets that were once very desirable can now be a hazard if you have to use a stool to access them. Everyday cookware, plates and tools should be conveniently stored in pullout drawers, Lazy Susans and racks for easy access. The cabinets and drawers should have easy-to-access D-shaped pulls and handles rather than knobs to assist your grip.
In addition to the overall space being well lit, there should be task lighting for the sink, stove and other work areas. The sink should be fitted with a lever-, touch- or sensor style faucet rather than one with turn-style handles or knobs. The faucet should also be a pressure-balanced, temperature-regulated faucet that is kept at 120 degrees or less to avoid scalds. The stove or cooktop should have easy-to-read, front-mounted controls so the cook doesn’t have to reach over hot pots or open flames. Those controls should have a lockout for the safety of small children who may visit.
A side-by-side refrigerator can usually provide the easiest access to both refrigerated and frozen food.
At some point, you might find yourself using a walker or a wheelchair. At that time, you might want to consider modifying work surface access by providing roll under or dropped height counters for food preparation from a seated position.
If you are modifying cabinetry, you might want to install an under-counter microwave or drawer style dishwasher. They are much more convenient and safer to use. Upper cabinets can be fitted with adjustable, pull-down shelving. If you don’t already have a pot filler, you may want to investigate the installation of one.
Flooring should be slip-resistant and should be a different color than the countertops to provide more contrast for better depth perception.
All kitchens should have an easy-to-use ABC-rated fire extinguisher stored in a convenient location, and the entire family should be trained on how to properly use it.
(Source: AARP HomeFit Guide at aarp.org/homefit.)
Ron Smith is a Maricopa resident and an aging-in-place advocate. He is also a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee and a member of the Maricopa Senior Coalition.
This column appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.