by Amy Kuykendall
Kitchens require more attention than ever when it comes to universal design–making a space accessible and safe to all, regardless of age or ability. Here’s how to adapt some basic areas in the kitchen using universal design principles:
Homeowners in all age groups have clear preference for open floor plans, which dictates a focus on kitchen design more than ever.
Baby boomers tend to be a very social group who like to entertain often. The kitchen becomes prime entertainment space with guests gathering around the island or counter space. A two-tiered island provides extra space and accessibility. Including a 30” table height surface at the island will offer optimal seating for everyone, regardless of age or mobility. It will also provide a workspace for those who struggle with standing, allowing them to sit while preparing food.
Appliances that are smart, high-tech and high-style are a must. Almost every appliance today is available in a variety of styles and features that have real benefits for those looking for a safe cooking environment for all without compromising aesthetics.
A built-in microwave drawer placed just beneath the countertop will eliminate a high reach, and is a great solution for shorter individuals and those managing a wheelchair or cane. A refrigerator with a freezer drawer at the bottom is much easier to operate, and the double door on the top offers full, unencumbered access to the refrigerator. Ovens that have a side-swing door are more accessible and safer than regular ovens, because users don’t have to bend over a hot door or extend their reach to access the interior.
All corners of the 50+ kitchen must be well-lit. As we age, we all require more uniform and balanced lighting levels. Strategically planned ambient and task lighting provides both beauty and safety. Recessed ceiling lights are the primary source of illumination in most kitchens. But adding lighting above the cabinets, as well as under-cabinet lighting, will create balance and make the kitchen feel more spacious. Pendants over the island are both functional and add a decorative touch. The proper blend of lighting and fixtures creates both ambiance and a well-lit work environment.
Everyone can be in on the cooking act! With key features, products and an accessible layout, people of all ages and abilities can live comfortably and safely.
Amy Kuykendall is Administrator of Marketing and Communications with ID.ology Interior Design in Asheville, NC.