Aging in place. Renovating a kitchen for your golden years.

Philadelphia and it's surrounding suburbs are filled with seniors and many are choosing to stay in their homes instead of moving to retirement communities. Wether you're disabled or not, it's important to design for the possibility that you may one day be losing your mobility, sight, or hearing. However, you don't have to build an awkward kitchen that will be difficult to resell. Here are some tips to design a kitchen for your golden years and keep it looking sleek.

A well lit kitchen is easy to work in and safer for everyone.

A well lit kitchen is easy to work in and safer for everyone.

1. Lighting.

Keep the kitchen well lit with ambient lighting, task lighting and natural light. Use multiple down lights to evenly light the kitchen, then add under cabinet lights and pendants to light specific work areas. Make sure appliances are well lit and use easy-open window shades or shutters to gain natural light. Modern light switches and outlets are available with light-up covers to make them easy to find. Also, consider mounting outlets and light switches lower to make them easy to reach. 

Large cabinet pulls are easy to grip.

Large cabinet pulls are easy to grip.

2. Cabinets

Choose cabinets and drawers that are easy-open and self-closing. Include pull out drawers in cabinets to avoid having to bend and search for items in the back. Large handles or cup pulls are easier to grip than small knobs. Choose contrasting colors for cabinets and counters so they are easy to see. Wheelchair bound persons will need a lower counter that they can fit their knees under. So, consider an island with a lower portion that you can use with dining height chairs. 

These kitchen islands are movable to gain room for future wheelchair accessibility.

These kitchen islands are movable to gain room for future wheelchair accessibility.

3. Layout

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires doorways to be 36" wide and that appliances have 30" wide by 48" deep areas in front of them (or to the side of dishwashers). When laying out your kitchen, consider adding space between counters or designing a U shape instead of using an island. Another option is to include a movable island that can be adjusted or removed if you ever need the extra space. This kitchen by Jill Neubauer includes a movable island and a lower island that works great as a wheelchair accessible prep counter.

Keep appliances easy to reach and choose large, bright displays.

Keep appliances easy to reach and choose large, bright displays.

4. Appliances

It's important to choose appliances that are easy and safe to use. Too much technology can be confusing, but it can also offer safety features like automatic shutoffs. Look for large, bright displays that are easy to read and knobs that are easy to grip. For wheelchair accessibility, use side by side refrigerators and consider dishwasher drawers. Wall ovens are also easier to reach than conventional ranges. Avoid built-in microwaves installed above the stove as these can be hard to reach. Ranges should have shut off knobs located at the front, so you don't have to reach over the burners. 

Use a sink skirt to keep your sink wheelchair accessible and stylish.

Use a sink skirt to keep your sink wheelchair accessible and stylish.

5. Plumbing

ADA compliant sinks should be lower than typical counter height and be open underneath. This can look odd in a kitchen, so consider adding two sinks. A lower sink can be wheelchair accessible and also great for making your grandkids help with dishes. A second taller sink will be comfortable for other adults. To hide the under sink opening, use a sink skirt like the kitchen above by Patrick Ahearn. Modern faucets offer touch controls to make use easier. Another helpful fixture is the pot filler faucet. Using a pot filler reduces the risk of trips and falls and is easier for seniors with joint pain. 

Like these ideas? Check out our other projects for more Philadelphia kitchen design inspiration.