The kitchen is the hub of most homes. It’s where you and your family congregate, and where you spend a good chunk of your time. One of the cornerstones to effectively ageing in place is a kitchen that is both safe and accessible. Being able to continue using your kitchen as you always did is one of the key components of independent life, and it’s especially challenging in the kitchen. The kitchen is the most likely place that seniors (or anyone) will get into an accident. It’s easy to see why, kitchens are full of sharp utensils, the possibility for spills and subsequent falls, and are usually difficult to manoeuvre around. If this, or any of the items below, sound like your kitchen, it may be time for an upgrade.
1. Dim or Flickering Lights
You would think that lighting in the kitchen would always be bright, but that’s not always the case. Many kitchens have ample brightness during the day because the layout of most homes often places kitchens closest to the backyard. This means though, that once the sun goes down many kitchens are ill-equipped, and the lighting is dim and doesn’t reach far enough.
2. Slippery Flooring
Falling is the leading cause of injury for seniors, so having a kitchen floor that is slippery is exceptionally dangerous. When it comes to kitchen renovations, the lighting and the flooring are what we recommend changed first (if you aren’t planning on a full update).
3. Gas Elements
Gas elements are not a huge problem in an accessible kitchen, but they are more dangerous than an electric stovetop, especially if you are using a mobility aid like a wheelchair. When you’re sitting down while cooking, it’s much easier for clothing to touch the active flame and catch fire, which is why we recommend electric stovetops. They are easier to use, easier to clean, and you don’t run the risk of leaving the gas on accidentally.
4. “Speed Bumps”
Speed bumps are variations in the flooring of your kitchen, usually if there is a doorway or if there used to be one. These little divets can be dangerous and problematic if you have visual issues or if you use a mobility aid that does not easily glide over the bumps. If there is a doorway separating parts of your kitchen (cooking and seating area for example) it’s not enough to simply remove the door. Make sure that you pay attention to uneven surfaces on the ground to decrease the likelihood of slips and falls.
5. High Cabinetry
If you currently need a step ladder to reach many of the items in your kitchen, your cabinets are too high, and will not be functional for you over time. There are lots of options to remedy this, from pulley cabinets to lowering and opening cabinetry for a more functional design. Keep in mind that a big part of creating a more accessible and functional space is downsizing the amount of stuff currently sitting on the shelves of your cabinets. You may find that you don’t need as much storage as you thought, or that the highest shelves are already completely unused.
Kitchen renovations are one of the most important elements to a home that will allow you to successfully stay in it as you age. If your current kitchen isn’t up to snuff, consider changing simple things like lighting, and adding some non-slip rugs to your floor. For the full list of accessible modifications for your home, check out the IA Checklist.