If you surveyed a group of ageing homeowners and asked if they would rather live in a senior’s residence or their own home, for as long as they could, most would choose their own home. As we age, our bodies gradually decline affecting eyesight, muscle mass, mobility, dexterity, and flexibility. This can make maneuvering in a kitchen difficult, as we get older.
An average kitchen should last about 20 years, which is why it’s important to embrace your needs for today, but also plan and anticipate your future needs. It’s impossible to predict those requirements, but here are some tips for setting up your kitchen to help you age in place.
There are many theories that Professional Kitchen Designers use when space planning. One famous study was the 1912 String Study by efficiency expert Christine Frederick. Christine drove many kitchen innovations, a life’s work dedicated to making kitchen spaces more efficient and driving standardization of kitchen counter and work surface heights.
Possibly the most well-known kitchen planning theory is the Kitchen Work Triangle concept, which is based on the concept of identifying and planning the key zones of the Kitchen which include the Sink, Refrigerator, and Stove/Cooktop. This theory is somewhat antiquated, as modern kitchens come in may shapes and a proper working triangle may not exist.
Modern planning concepts would include the Dynamic Space Concept by BLUM, published around 1997. The key elements are based on the planning for each of the Five Zones which include Combustibles, Non-Combustibles, Cleaning, Preparation, and Cooking.
Another planning concept is the Intelligent Kitchens by Hettich. This framework is based on three elements which include Short Distances, Ergonomics, and Cleverly Organized Cabinet Interiors. Because of our current daily kitchen routines and shopping habits, this is probably the framework that most Professional Kitchen Designers use today.
This is probably one of the most overlooked planning considerations when zoning a kitchen. It’s important to store your primarily used items at the right height. This prevents bending down or even the need to crawl inside a base cabinet. Keeping mainly used items in the primary accessible area/zone of your kitchen will save you a lot of pain. Remember, you don’t want to store items too high or too low.
Zoning and placement of the microwave is a hot topic, an appliance that many have a love/hate relationship with. If accessibility is an issue, it is recommended to have your microwave at counter height to avoid bending down or reaching too high.
Here is a fun fact, did you know that all microwaves are hinged on the left-hand side? Therefore, placement is very important, to ensure for optimal opening and accessibility.
ACCESSIBILITY IMPROVEMENTS AND CONSIDERATIONS
Improving accessibility should be at the forefront when planning a new kitchen. There are many cabinet upgrades and accessories that can take your kitchen from good to great. Let’s review some of the most popular items.
ADDING MORE DRAWERS: Adding as many drawers as you can, or roll out shelves, in any kitchen is a fantastic way to increase accessibility for the long-term. This is because large drawers are perfect for storing heavy items such as bowls and plates. Large drawers are also great for storing plates, rather than in wall cabinets. As humans get older, reaching above one’s head as you age can be problematic for some.
FULL EXTENSION DRAWER GLIDES: This may seem like an insignificant upgrade, however adding full extension drawer glides to your project can pay huge dividends in the long run. Full extension glides can add up to 50 millimetres of access, which equals about an 11% improvement. This will provide full and easy access to all items in the drawer and prevents key items from being out of sight.
SOFT CLOSE / SILENT CLOSE DRAWERS AREN’T FOR EVERYONE: If hand dexterity, mobility, and strength are concerns, you may consider not selecting the soft close or silent close upgrade option for your drawers. This is because they are harder to open. There is a slight resistance when the drawer is first pulled to open because the dampener needs to be activated. Read more on Choosing the Right Cabinet Drawer System.
CORNER DRAWERS: Corner drawers are the perfect way to add fully accessible storage to any corner of a kitchen design. They pack a ton of storage, look great, and should be considered if you are looking for a Lazy Susan alternative. Corner drawers aren’t perfect, as they do not use the entire space, resulting in some dead space. They do makeup tenfold in accessibility and function. They also require a bit of planning from your professional kitchen designer to ensure the clearances are met to prevent any collisions and bumping into adjacent appliances.
CORNER PULL-OUTS: Adding a pull-out accessory to a corner cabinet is a great way to increase the accessibility in this challenged zone. Popular items such as the Magic Corner Pull Out, LeMans II Pull Out, or The Wood Super Suzan are the most popular upgrades for corner cabinets. View all corner cabinet accessories here.
APPLIANCE LIFT ASSIST: For those needing a helping hand, adding a heavy-duty appliance lift mechanism to a kitchen can be an amazing upgrade. These spring-loaded systems are great for lifting heavy items such as Mix Masters or KitchenAid Mixers that can weigh between 20-30 lbs. Featured in the above video is the Pegasus Pull-Down Mechanism, this accessory can be retrofitted into a two door wall upper cabinet.
LIFT UP AND DOWN ASSIST: The lift up and down mechanism accessory for upper cabinets is pretty amazing. This unit pulls down, bringing items downwards closer to the countertop zone, in one simple movement. This can be a major ergonomic storage advantage for those who need it.
Designing your new kitchen with a 20-year life cycle in mind is a great place to start. Plan each zone accordingly to put primary-use items exactly where you need them and ensure that everything is easy to reach. Make sure things are well sorted and easy to find. Remember, incorporating these considerations can also help increase your home’s value, which can appeal to home buyers. An accessible and functional kitchen makes for a comfortable and enjoyable space to enjoy, as the years progress.
If you are in Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, or Winnipeg and would like to speak with one of our Professional Kitchen Designers, please get in touch. They have the experience to help you design a space with Universal Design and Ageing in Place considerations. If you are outside of those areas, you can also contact a Superior Cabinets Authorized Dealer Partner in Canada or the USA.
LOOKING FOR MORE?
Here are some additional helpful articles to check out:
2023 KITCHEN TRENDS
WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON NEW KITCHEN CABINETS
WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE KITCHEN COST?
KITCHEN DESIGNER CHEAT SHEET
2021 KITCHEN TRENDS UPDATE
FARMHOUSE SINK CONSIDERATIONS
ACTING AS YOUR OWN GENERAL CONTRACTOR, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
ADDING TO EXISTING CABINETS
COMMON CORNER CABINET TYPES AND IDEAS