Accessible Design for Baby Boomers & the Aging Population

Lucy Traetto

The cabinetry industry in Canada plays a significant role in the country’s economy, contributing to manufacturing and creating job opportunities nationwide.

Factors such as population growth, urbanization, housing construction, and remodeling activities have driven the demand for cabinetry in recent years. The market trend towards open concept living spaces, customized designs, and environmentally friendly materials has also influenced the cabinetry industry in Canada.

The ongoing trends in housing, construction, and consumer demand for quality and customized cabinetry products are expected to drive the steady growth of the industry. It is crucial to differentiate products and solutions to meet the needs of the demographic with the most disposable income, particularly baby boomers, who are investing in home renovations to make their living spaces more comfortable, functional, and valuable as they age.

What products and solutions can differentiate you from the others? What solutions will enhance and improve quality of living in the home? Who is the demographic that will, in the immediate future, benefit from functionality and ergonomics in the home?

Full extension drawers in base cabinets offer many ergonomic advantages. The contents inside can viewed easily from the top, significantly improving access. With doors in bases cabinets, one if forced to bend and reach.

Baby boomers have the most disposable income which means they can spend money on home renovations. They are the largest group of homeowners making these renovations, accounting for 41% of total spending on home renovations in the country. Baby boomers have the desire to make their homes more comfortable and functional as they age, as well as to increase the value of their properties. Additionally, many baby boomers are retiring or approaching retirement and are using their savings to improve their living spaces for their golden years. As of 2021, seniors make up around 17% of the Canadian population, and this proportion is expected to continue to increase in the coming years.

Knowledge is power. Being aware of this type of information will allow us to create cabinetry that is not only beautiful but that will be functional, ergonomically friendly, safe for the homeowners as well as anybody that visits that home. It is also a great selling feature when that house is sold.

Designing cabinets for baby boomers and the aging population in general involves consideration of functionality, ergonomics, accessibility, and aesthetics tailored to their needs and preferences. Here are some tips that encompass these principles:

 

 

  1. Designing zone cabinets: this means that you build cabinets around the storage goods of the individuals living in that home. This will ensure that all their storage goods will be in the area that they are needed.

    When a kitchen is laid out in zones, all storage goods are in the area they need to be used and are organized. This makes kitchens more efficient, ensures good workflow and improves quality of living.
  2. Accessibility: Ensure cabinets are easy to reach without excessive bending or stretching. Opt for full extension drawers instead of deep cabinets, allowing easy access to items at the back as well as the ability to keep things nice and organized.
  3. Upper Cabinets: Doors in upper cabinets can be obstructions. In addition, they can be dangerous if the user is bent down to access something out of a base cabinet, stands up and hits their head on the corner of the door. Instead, think of using lift systems as they go up and stay up. This is ideal when unloading a dishwasher as you can put glasses, cups, and dishes away in one fluid motion because of the unrestricted access on all sides. Lift systems also provide brightness into the cabinet unlike doors.
  4. Soft-Close Mechanisms: install soft-close hinges, drawer slides, and lift systems to prevent slamming, making cabinets quieter and safer, especially for aging users.
  5. Toe Kick Drawers: Falls in the home are the leading cause of injury for older adults therefore it is important to incorporate safe solutions to reach high places. An example of this would be to add a toe-kick drawer which not only add height but also increases usable storage space as there is a drawer under the step.
  6. Accessible Hardware: Install cabinet hardware that is easy to grip and operate, such as large handles where you can fit at least 2-3 fingers. This ensures that an individual with arthritis or limited dexterity can grip and pull with their hand or a cane.

    Upper cabinets with doors are obstructions and make it difficult to navigate around the kitchen. When lift systems are used, the doors go up and out of the way to making it easy to put your dishes away and access is available from all sides.
  7. Handless Fronts: Bulky handles that stick out can often get caught on pockets or can bruise and elder person as their skin becomes very thin and delicate. Solutions such as touch to open doors, drawers, and lift systems allow us to eliminate the handles which not only mitigates injury but also gives the room a nice clean look.
  8. Cabinet Heights: It is important to ensure that cabinets are installed at accessible heights and locations to allow users to reach and use them easily. It may not always make sense to put cabinets all the way to the ceiling if they are not accessible. The money that can be saved there can be put towards the functionality in the cabinets below the counter. Adding organization, ensuring the drawers are deep all the way around, having enclosed sides of the drawers so items do not slip through – these are all great ways to improve function and the overall experience for the user.
  9. Clear Visibility: Using lighting under cabinets or inside them is important as this improves visibility, making it easier for baby boomers and others with vision impairment to see contents, especially in dimly lit areas.
  10. Consultation and Feedback: Lastly, it is important to engage with baby boomer and aging clients throughout the design process to understand their specific needs, preferences, and any challenges they may face in the kitchen, bathroom, or other living space. This will lead to more tailored and satisfactory cabinet solutions.

 

Incorporating these principles will not only result in timeless designs but, most importantly, will enhance the quality of living and safety in homes, especially for baby boomers and individuals with limitations or disabilities.

 

Lucy Traetto works as a Senior Sales & Marketing Representative at Blum Canada Ltd, bringing homes to life with safety and accessibility. With her expertise as a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) and Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP), she focuses on products and designs that make every living space more inclusive and user-friendly for all ages.

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