If you surveyed a group of ageing homeowners and asked if they would rather live in a senior’s residence or their own home, most would choose their own home for as long as they could. 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, so it’s important to embrace clients’ needs for today and plan and anticipate future needs. It’s impossible to predict those requirements, but here are some tips for setting up kitchens to help with ageing in place.
There are many theories that Professional Kitchen Designers use when planning space. One famous study was the 1912 String Study by efficiency expert Christine Frederick. Frederick drove many kitchen innovations, a life’s work dedicated to making kitchen spaces more efficient and driving standardization of kitchen counters and work surface heights.
Possibly the most well-known kitchen planning theory is the Kitchen Work Triangle concept, which is based on identifying and planning the key zones of the kitchen, including the sink, refrigerator, and stove/cooktop. This theory is somewhat antiquated, as modern kitchens come in many shapes, and a proper working triangle may not exist.
Modern planning concepts would include the Dynamic Space Concept by Blum, published around 1997. Because of our current daily kitchen routines and shopping habits, this is probably the framework that most Professional Kitchen Designers use today. The key elements are based on the planning for each of the Five Zones: Combustibles, Non-Combustibles, Cleaning, Preparation, and Cooking.
This is probably one of the most overlooked planning considerations when zoning a kitchen. It’s essential to store 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 a lot of pain. Remember, you don’t want to store things 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 the 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 critical to ensure optimal opening and accessibility.
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 possible 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 a minor 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 millimeters of access, which equals about an 11% improvement. This will provide complete and easy access to all items in the drawer and prevents essential items from being out of sight.
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 customers 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 make up 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. You can check out corner cabinet accessories here.
Designing a 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 a home’s value, which can be appealing 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 a Superior Cabinets Professional Kitchen Designer, 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.