Kitchen & Bath Design for Aging in Place
A concept that is becoming more desirable in recent years is the ability to “age in place”. Aging in place simply means being able to live comfortably, independently and safely in your home regardless of age, income and/or physical limitations. Aging in place reduces the financial burden of long-term care facilities and encourages independence by allowing one to perform daily activities like cooking or bathing, with minimal difficulty or assistance needed.
The kitchen and bathroom tend to be two of the most dangerous areas of the home, where the most slips or falls occur, and mobility issues arise. Outlined below are several accommodations that can help to transform these areas of the home into more conducive spaces for aging in place.
1. Maneuverability- Some doorways are not wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair. Wheelchairs require a doorway passage at least 32 inches wide, some typical doorways may be much narrower. It’s also important that there is ample space in kitchen aisles; pass through kitchens should have a clearance of 40 inches while a U-shaped kitchen should have a clearance of 60 inches.
2. Cabinetry- Upper cabinetry should be lowered for easier access based on the individual user’s ability. Cabinetry pullouts, adjustable shelves, drawer dividers etc. can make it easier to access cooking equipment.
3. Countertops- Typical countertops are about 36 inches high, while accessible countertops may need to be a couple of inches lower. Some countertop workspace should be free of lower cabinetry, making it possible for the seated user to pull right up to the counter. Measuring individual comfort ranges can help determine countertop height and depth.
4. Appliances- Installing appliances lower to the ground will improve ease of use, such as a microwave built into lower cabinetry. Cooktops with controls located on the front will prevent reaching over hot burners. A bottom drawer freezer is also easier to access than a top drawer freezer.
1. Flooring- Large floor tiles with minimal grout tend to get slippery creating a fall hazard. Consider a smaller sized tile requiring more grout to prevent slips. A curbless shower where the bathroom floor is continuous throughout is safe for users who cannot step over a threshold.
2. Grab Bars- Placing multiple grab bars throughout the bathroom is essential. Grab bars in and right outside of the shower/bathtub encourage independent bathing, and grab bars located near the toilet increase safety and independence.
3. Shower Heads- A shower head with a selection of sprays, such as straight down or angled, allows the user to pick their preference based on individual needs. A handheld, movable shower head, along with the main shower head is necessary for seated users.
4. Vanity- Just as in the kitchen, the vanity sink should be free of lower cabinetry for wheelchair accessibility. Countertop height should be around 34 inches, slightly lower than average.