Functional Kitchens to Facilitate Fuller Living

Wouldn’t it be great if our increased age had no effect on the ease of living and performing simple tasks? In other words, coping with getting older is enough to handle without the added stresses of having to adapt to physical changes and limitations at the same time.0_9211116156.jpg

The truth is that although things become more difficult for us, there are ways to make them easier and ease the transition of aging. After all, the goal is to live life to the fullest, no matter how old you are or your physical condition, right?

Here are a few of the simple ways you can tailor your kitchen – or some things to look for when selecting an assisted living facility – that are not only senior-friendly, but that can also facilitate functioning at full capacity even if you have a physical disability or other limitations.

Handi-Capable Kitchen Cabinets

This wheelchair-accessible cooking station is just one of the ways you can tailor a kitchen to suit your needs when you or a loved one living in your home uses a wheelchair.

Other kitchen cabinet re-vamps include:

  • Raising the toe kicks from the standard 4″ up to 6″-8″ to allow better wheelchair accessibility; and
  • Installing pull-out drawers in the cabinets and slide-out inserts behind the doors give easier access to items located in the back without having to reach in or empty the entire cabinet each time you need something.

In fact, cabinets that consist of open shelving can eliminate the need for doors entirely. This is an especially handy feature if there are issues with pulling doors open (due to muscular difficulties or issues like arthritis) or maneuvering a wheelchair around a space that accommodates the wheels but not the wheels plus space for swinging open kitchen cabinet doors.

Do-able Doors and Drawers

And speaking of pulling open doors (and drawers), there are styles of handles that are easier than others, and a single type can address all sorts of issues.

  • For cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom: “pulls” that are long and slender or even door-knocker-style rings are a better option than tiny (albeit attractive) little knobs that are difficult to grasp.

*A trick with either type of these cabinet pulls is to attach a length of rope or thick cording and tie knots on both ends – now there is more surface area to grab as well as additional leverage provided by pulling on a rope.

  • For interior and exterior doors: handle-style doorknobs or lever-shaped dummy pulls (that you need not manipulate up or down) are preferable to round knobs that must be twisted or latches that require little bits and pieces fitting together in order to lock/unlock the door.

Other Kitchen Guidelines and Good Ideas

In terms of ADA-compliance and otherwise overall good ideas to make living easier, consider the following:

  • Dishwashers: The maximum high forward reach is 48″ and maximum low forward reach is 15″ for controls and operating mechanisms.
  • Top-Freezer Refrigerators: Controls must be below 54″ and be operable with one hand without requiring twisting, pinching or grasping. 100% of the fresh food space, as well as 50% of the freezer space must be below 54″.
  • Side-by-Side Refrigerators: These must be fully-operable with one hand and allow parallel approach by a person in a wheelchair with maximum high side reach of 54″.
  • Range: Same reach requirements as the dishwashers for controls but they may not be located in a place that requires reaching across burners to access them.
  • Cooktops: If they have spaces underneath to allow for wheelchairs, they must be insulated or otherwise covered to prevent burns, abrasions or electrical shock on the exposed surfaces.
  • Make sure blankets and other comforts and necessities (toilet paper, paper towels, soap, toiletries, etc.) are placed on sturdy shelves that do not require a person to extend their reach all the way to the back or lift their arms over their heads.
  • Soft-close and self-closing doors and drawers on kitchen cabinets and in bathrooms are a nice touch that will prevent injured fingers and will minimize the startling effect that slamming doors can have.

What other areas in the kitchen can you think of that could be more geared toward the sensational senior-plus crowd?

Chris Long has been working at Home Depot since 2000. Chris is a store associate in the Chicago suburbs, and also writes on kitchen design ideas for the Home Depot website. He provides advice to Home Depot customers on cabinets, islands, and other kitchen fixtures.

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