When you adapt a home, there are some rooms which require accessible attention first.
The kitchen is one of the first places many people start, and here’s why.
Why Kitchen Adaptations Are Important
Maintaining or rediscovering independence can vastly improve the quality of life for individuals living with limited mobility.
Preparing and cooking your own meals is a crucial part of this independence and also supports physical, social and cognitive development. Being able to make a cup of tea for a visiting friend, chop vegetables for a salad or simply operate the microwave are all activities that promote dignity and get those feel-good hormones rushing about the body.
The Challenges Of Adapting A Kitchen
Kitchens come in all shapes and sizes. When considering kitchen adaptations for the elderly, you often have to work with the existing room size and the plumbing and electrics that come with it.
This isn’t always ideal, and it takes a lot of brain power to create a user-centric design rather than one that simply conforms to the space available.
The Best Kitchen Adaptations For The Elderly
For elderly individuals, some aspects of an adapted kitchen need to be built in.
Changing the layout of the room can make it easier to move around and reduce how much manoeuvering, stretching and bending is required of the user. This isn’t one of your traditional kitchen adaptations; for the elderly, you’ve got to consider the most effective way to configure appliances to simplify travelling around the room.
Does the layout of your kitchen simplify movement between the fridge, oven and sink? If not, changing the layout is an effective way of adapting a kitchen. Consider a linear formation, as this limits the need for the user to lift hot or heavy items away from the work surfaces.
Choosing colours for worktops and cabinets that stand out against walls and floors can help to highlight their location for users who struggle with their eyesight. Whilst this might prompt you to look for bold, strong colours, brighter colours like these can be very unsettling to the eye.
Instead, opt for muted, softer shades for a stylish yet easy-to-navigate kitchen.
Standing Height Appliances
Installing an oven and microwave at standing height, or at a height that suits the user if their needs are more individual, is one of the most notable kitchen adaptations for the elderly.
Under-counter ovens require a range of movement that can be uncomfortable, impossible and even dangerous for many older users. Moving ovens and microwaves to be easier to see into, open, and reach reduces the risk of burns and accidents.
Electric hobs are the go-to for safety-based kitchen adaptations for the elderly. This is because there are no naked flames.
Induction hobs are also a brilliant option for many households because they only begin to heat when a magnetic pan is put on them, but this use of magnetism can interfere with pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, or insulin pumps, so seek advice before purchasing.
Adapted High Cabinets
Wall-mounted cabinets are not only impossible to reach if you use a wheelchair but also present a hazard of items falling out. Re-organising the room’s contents so that the most used items are more accessible is one of the more simple changes.
For the elderly, consider reducing high cabinets and relocating them to a lower level with pull-out shelves to minimise bending and crouching. Or, if space is an issue, install pull-down baskets to existing wall-mounted cabinets for a simple and affordable solution. These can be lowered electronically or manually.
If you’re not short on space, consider a pull-out larder. This can provide ample storage space and is easy to open for hands and bodies with less strength and dexterity.
The sink isn’t likely to come to mind when considering adapting a kitchen for an elderly relative, friend or client. However, a shallower sink makes reaching cutlery and crockery that has fallen to the bottom easier.
For wheelchair users, a wall-mounted sink with space underneath for the chair of the wheelchair to sit is crucial for reaching the taps. Kitchen taps also need to be easy to turn; many users benefit from lever or motion-sensor taps as these styles are simpler for weaker hands.
The Best Kitchen Aids For The Elderly
As well as kitchen adaptations for older people that require layout and appliance changes, some things can be added to any kitchen for a vast improvement in accessibility.
Adequate lighting is one of the simplest kitchen adaptations for the elderly.
Using hot appliances and sharp cutlery can pose a significant hazard for those with deteriorating eyesight. Ensuring the room is well-lit with a combination of natural and ceiling lights is a great start. Adding spotlights under the wall-mounted cupboard that highlight the worktops and hob, and ensuring lightswitches are situated at an easy-to-reach level as you enter the room, are further steps you can take for maximum effectiveness.
Standing for long periods to prepare food and wash up, among other kitchen activities, can be a strain.
The addition of a perch stool that can be folded or tucked away when not in use to optimise space provides the user with a much-needed place of respite if standing becomes too much. Perching stools hold users in a near-standing position, so there’s no need to lower down and raise from sitting.
Changing the kitchen floor might be a pain, but the risk of falling is not to be overlooked, especially in rooms with slippery flooring like tiles.
Non-slip, anti-glare, textured flooring provides elderly users with a better grip while walking and should be kept clear of debris at all times. This heavily reduces the risk of trips and falls in a room where sharp and hot objects may be in use.
This is one of the simplest kitchen adaptations for the elderly on our list.
Kettle tippers are frames that hold your existing kettle and allow you to tip it to pour rather than lift it, which minimises the effort required and lowers the risk of hot water spills.
Introducing a strong, sturdy trolley with swivelling wheels can be life-changing for transporting food and drink from room to room or around the kitchen.
Kitchen Adaptations For The Elderly Can Change Lives
Whether they’re large or small, kitchen adaptations have a significant impact on independence within the home.
Do you want to improve accessibility for an elderly patient or loved one? It can be hard to decide where to start, but the kitchen is a great place. Follow this link to our website for a look at what we do and how it could help.