Archive for July, 2018
In our last post, we covered 3 makeover moves that will ensure your kitchen improves with your age. In this follow up post, we want to address the kitchen work triangle: sink, oven, and refrigerator. You don’t need a degree in geometry to design a kitchen work triangle, but thinking ahead now will deliver long-term convenience, usability, and safety as you age.
A good, well thought out work triangle makes kitchen tasks easier and more efficient. When designing an aging in place kitchen, the oven, sink, and refrigerator should be as close together as possible. If necessary, have a secondary sink installed. Try to keep these three appliances/fixtures on the same level for ease of transfer of food, pots, baking pans, etc. Always choose appliances that are easy to use, easy to read, and have nice large buttons.
As we grow older our chances of sustaining serious burns increases. Fortunately, companies are hard at work designing appliances and faucets that can greatly diminish the chances of injury. One of the most hazardous appliances in the kitchen is the oven. But three companies—GE, Viking, and Bosch—now have French door or side door wall ovens to greatly enhance safety in the kitchen.
Wall ovens, microwaves, and cooktops
Wall ovens should always be placed at a comfortable height. For some, that’s in a base cabinet. For others, it’s about waist high. Side by side is the safest configuration. A landing space beside or across from an oven is mandatory according to building codes. But one of the best designs for an aging in place kitchen—or any kitchen– is a pullout shelf right under the wall oven, just low enough to allow closing of the oven. It’s these small things that can make a big difference.
A cooktop is usually a much safer option than a range. In general,
electric cooktops are considered more senior-friendly than gas options. An open flame is never a good idea in an aging in place kitchen. One of the very best gas alternatives is an induction cooktop, which heats the pan but not the cooktop itself. These are far less likely to cause burns. Always choose one with front mounted controls—no reaching over the cooktop. Also, choose a model that makes it easy to see if it is on or off.
Placement of the microwave can also spell the difference between a safe kitchen and one that may cause a serious accident. Microwaves should be about counter height whether they are built-in or not. One type of microwave that comes highly recommended for the elderly is the microwave drawer. Some companies who sell these are Sharp, Jenn-air, and KitchenAid. Although they are usually installed a little lower than counter height they are easier to use at this height than the door style.
Safety tip: Protecting against scald burns
Scald injuries are common among the elderly. While 42% are due to hot food, a significant percentage—32%– are due to hot water. Here are two simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of scald burns.
- Have a sink located very close to the cooktop. And install a pot filler at the cooktop. Also use the large pasta type pots with a lift out strainer in the pot.
- Turn down the hot water heater. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the setting should be no higher than 120 degrees fahrenheit
The most recommended faucet for aging in place kitchens are the hands-free type. Touch faucets are very easy on arthritic hands. An anti-scald device should be on all faucets used by the elderly. When planning your kitchen design, request that the faucet placement is located on the side of your sinks, rather than the traditional center location. Reaching over a hot pan or getting too close to the hot water spray can be dangerous.
Refrigerators and other modifications
Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers are the easiest to use for seniors. Look for storage in the door, especially for large items, like milk jugs. Also look for sturdy, easy to use pull out shelves for smaller items. These make it much easier to find what you need.
Other modifications include under counter lighting, countertops with rounded edges, and non-slip flooring. Everything in the kitchen should be chosen with an eye toward easy cleaning and upkeep. Improving your kitchen’s functionality can be done all at once or little by little. The final takeaway will be a beautiful kitchen that is a joy to work in now and functional for the future when motor skills, balance, mobility, sight, and other physical functions become more limited.
I hope you learned some useful design applications that will help add exquisite form and innovative function to your renovation plans. Please contact us if you have questions about an upcoming renovation project that relates to adaptive kitchen designs or other projects you’re contemplating.
— Jennifer Howard, owner + chief designer, JWH Design & Cabinetry
Homeowners contemplating a kitchen renovation are often triggered by a living space that no longer accommodates their family’s needs or preferences. The kitchen may be excessively outdated, lack sufficient cabinet and/or counter space or the room may not be optimally configured to maximize space. These are all sound reasons to plan a kitchen renovation, but before you get seduced by “all the pretty colors” and a virtually limitless list of options from captivating cabinet styles and configurations to tony tiles and backsplashes, take your foot out of the showroom and put your future goggles on.
Gen Xers and Baby Boomers Plan on Staying Home
If you are among the 43% of 45- to 65-year-olds that anticipate remaining in their current residence throughout their retirement (source: USA Today), you may want to make some additional nips and tucks to your kitchen renovation blueprint. Here are three key elements to take into account to ensure your kitchen retains its functionality and usability as your physical abilities moderate over time. Remodeling with an eye to the future can not only provide you with peace of mind and a beautiful kitchen now, but a future that is safe and comfortable.
1. Custom cabinets with removable fronts
Cabinets that are universal design capable are no longer ugly or institutional. Beautiful custom cabinets with stunning finishes and fashion conscience door styles can be designed with a view on the horizon and the physical limitations the future may bring.
Custom cabinets could be designed with removable fronts to become wheelchair or scooter -friendly. island cabinets can be designed to use sitting down. Eating counters should be table height with chairs or low stools. Counter height stools can be dangerous for seniors—both feet on the floor is the safest way to go. Some cabinets, such as dishwasher cabinets, can be raised to make loading and unloading easier on the back.
2. Keep it safe and within arm’s reach
The safest place to store anything in the kitchen is in base cabinets. Falls from step
stools are a major hazard in the kitchen and pulling items down on top of oneself presents another risk. Tall pullout pantries are a good place to store dry goods, but the pantry cabinet should be no taller than the user.
Dish and glassware drawers eliminate the need for hard-to-reach wall cabinets and can open up a wall for more
windows to provide natural light and a nice view. Studies prove that bright sunny rooms prevent depression and improve mood overall– a real plus for aging in place design. A bright sunny kitchen also cuts down on the electric bill and helps those with low vision.
3. Minimizing frustration with open and pullout shelving
Open shelving in islands or base cabinets is another way to keep dishes and glassware within reach.
Frustration and impatience are two common complaints of the elderly and inability to find things is a number one cause of frustration, so organization in drawers and cabinets is vital. Pull-out shelves can help find items that would be otherwise lost in a dark and not easily assessable cabinet.
Anything heavy should be on a pull-out shelf such as the mixer, blender, slow cooker, bread machine, etc. This type of shelf protects your back and maximizes storage space. Even your kitchen garbage pail and recycling bins can be equipped with a pullout system. Anything that makes life easier, safer, and less frustrating will be worth it in the years to come.
I hope these tips inspired you. Come back for part two of this series where I’ll cover other aspects of the kitchen, particularly the “work triangle”, appliances, and other clever construction design applications that will both beautify and add comfort and safety to your kitchen long into the future.
— Jennifer Howard, owner + chief designer, JWH Designs & Cabinetry