Designing a Kitchen for Aging in Place

As a Cape Cod builder, many of our clients are homeowners who have had a second home here for years and are considering moving here fulltime when they retire. A quaint cottage with a challenging layout that may have seemed acceptably quirky when the kids were young just won’t do as a year-round home.

There are many considerations that need to be addressed when doing a renovation that will transition a home from summer fun to primary residence. On the Cape, these changes often require integrating aging-in-place design elements, especially in the kitchen. With a thoughtful design, this can be easily done without sacrificing style.

Create More Clearance: Generally speaking, the “clearance,” the space between fixed-in-place things such as perimeter cabinets and an island, is 36 inches. Increasing this space by six or even 12 inches will actually improve the look of a kitchen, making it feel more open and airy, and will also facilitate someone using a wheelchair or walker.

Cabinetry Concerns: Think about how you use your kitchen now or, better yet, take notes while preparing a meal. In any instance where you need to bend over to reach something, there is likely a cabinetry option that will ease or eliminate that constant stooping.

Whatever it is you need to store, there is an under-counter option available. Photo via SpaceWise.

A pantry with a roll-out shelving system makes every inch of space — top to bottom and front to back — accessible. Drawers, rather than cabinets, underneath counters can be pulled out, greatly reducing the need to bend down. Special inserts for items such as plates and bowls can make these lower drawers just as user-friendly as upper cabinets.

Fixtures & Faucets: Lugging a lobster pot or pot filled with water for pasta from the sink to the stove can be a challenge for virtually anyone. Add mobility concerns and any aches and pains so often associated with growing older to the equation, and it becomes downright impossible. A pot-filler faucet positioned on the wall directly behind the range solves the problem.

A pot filler means an end to hauling heavy pots of water from the sink to the range. Photo via Better Homes & Gardens.

For faucets in general, levers rather than knobs are much easier to grasp when one has a condition such as arthritis that may limit dexterity.

Appliances: Simple changes can make a difference when it comes to appliances.

Most people open their refrigerator far more than they do the freezer. Appliance makers finally realized this and introduced models with the fridge over, rather than under, the freezer. Brilliant in general; crucial as we age. French doors on the refrigerator can also ease operation as we grow older by halving the overall weight of each door.

Most appliance manufacturers, including Sub-Zero, offer this configuration; photo via website.

Finally, an under-counter microwave or microwave drawer puts this much-used appliance just below waist level, so much more convenient that constantly having to reach up to one that is mounted over the range or below upper counters. An under-counter microwave also won’t take up precious counter space.

An under-counter microwave drawer is a sleek, smart option. Photo via Homedit.

Please contact us with any questions or to arrange a consultation.