Make the Heart of Your Home Easier to Use
The kitchen is the heart of your home. It is increasingly being used for multiple purposes. It’s where family and visitors gather to prepare meals, have conversations, and build memories. As our lives become more casual, the kitchen becomes more important. It is the central meeting area for the family. By following some simple rules of accessibility you can make your kitchen one that is more comfortable and easy to use for everyone. Universal Design principles will reduce fatigue and allow for safer and more efficient use of your kitchen.
To start, the layout should be one that allows for flow through the three major areas of use: the refrigerator, the sink and the cooking area (stove, oven or microwave). To reduce steps, these stations should be located in close proximity, ideally in a triangle. If you have a galley kitchen or an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen, keep the stations in logical order and close together if possible. Allow for a counter space between the sink and stove for preparing items for cooking. Standard counter height is 36” but counters can be lower if users are seated or in a wheelchair. Choose glare-free countertop materials and avoid sharp counter edges and corners.
The sink is the most often used item in the kitchen. Make sure that it is large enough or has dual basins. The faucet should be a single-lever type. It’s handy to have a pull-out sprayer built into the faucet. Stainless steel sinks are easier to maintain than porcelain ones. Appliance choice is next in importance. Refrigerators are designed in many different ways now and frequently have cold water and ice accessible in the door. Locating the freezer compartment below makes using the refrigerator section easier with less bending. If the user is in a wheelchair, a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer is best. Stoves now have easy to use push button controls. These are preferred to knobs or dials. Microwave ovens should be located at counter height. Removing hot items from upper cabinet height microwaves can be dangerous.
Cabinetry is very important. To reduce the stress of bending and trying to reach inside lower cabinets, install pull-out drawers and shelving. For upper cabinets, pull-down shelving is available. Otherwise, do not place items on upper shelves that are higher than you can comfortably reach. Many falls in the home involve step stools so avoid using them if you can. There are many new cabinet designs for pantries, wine racks, spices, plates, platters, and trays that are clever use of space. Remember to have locking cabinets for chemicals, sharp items and other things that you want to keep out of reach from children, pets, or those with dementia.
Natural lighting from kitchen windows is preferred. Overhead lighting can also be good, but make sure it is full-spectrum and LED for cost savings. Task lighting is very important for many cooking and baking chores and can be installed under your upper cabinets. Make sure your receptacles have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) for avoiding shocks and burns. There are many other tips for making your kitchen accessible. The Move Makers employs a Certified Aging in Place Specialist who can review your kitchen and the entire house and offer recommendations for improvements. Contact us today at (503) 744-0826.