Help your parents age-proof their kitchen!
A kitchen can be the heart of your home. It’s your place to get that first cup of coffee in the morning — or share a meal at the end of the day. It’s a source of comfort, a refuge, and a haven.
Unfortunately, kitchen accidents can discourage our aging parents from using this wonderful space. That is too bad, because preparing meals can contribute to a sense of self-sufficiency and control that are so critical for emotional well-being at any age.
How can you help your parents re-claim the kitchen — and make it more age-friendly?
The answer depends on your budget and the current state of the kitchen. The good news is that there are many simple and inexpensive changes that can make a big difference!
If kitchen remodeling is not an option
Sometimes, a full kitchen remodeling project doesn’t make sense. Here are 5 tweaks that require minimal money.
- Reposition the microwave from an upper shelf to the counter. That will make it easier to reach, and your parents won’t have to balance hot bowls and cups at their eye level every time they need to warm something up.
- Re-organize pots, pans, utensils, and supplies so that daily-use items are within easy reach. Put that turkey roasting pan and the apple pie dish further away if Mom only reaches for them once a year.
- Change the pulls on the drawers and cabinet doors to be D-shaped pull handles, not knobs. As your parents age, knobs will become more difficult to securely grip.
- Swap in a single-pull handle faucet to replace the twist-handle faucet. You might also consider installing a motion-sensor faucet. While you are dealing with the faucet, check the water heater temp and decrease it to 120 to minimize the risk of burns.
- Buy a couple of non-skid floor pads. Use them to cushion the spot in front of the sink or stove where your parents might stand for longer periods of time. Throw away rugs and runners that are a potential tripping hazard.
If remodeling is an option
If your parents are thinking about remodeling or updating their kitchen, suggest these changes that will make it easier for them to enjoy this space for years to come.
- Choose pull-put drawers over cabinets. As your parents get older, kneeling on the floor to dig out that jar of tomato sauce or a pasta cooker will become a hassle and a potential risk.
- Select non-slip flooring. Porcelain tile can be more porous and less slippery that ceramic tile. Polished natural stone may look beautiful, but it becomes a hazard when wet. Work with a specialist who can present several options within your budget and explain how each surface will perform in the long run.
- Install a shallow sink. It will make it easier to wash everything from fruits and veggies to dishes and cups. If your parents use a dishwasher, look for one that can be raised off the floor to minimize the need for bending over.
- Explore your options for lighting. Ideally, you want plenty of illumination over working surfaces, plus good background lighting for evenings and nighttime navigation.
- Choose a stove with controls on the front of the unit. That way, your parents won’t need to reach over hot burners to turn them off. An automatic burner shut-off function could be helpful, as well. If you are looking for replace an oven, consider one with a side-swing door (i.e. no leaning over a piping-hot pull-down oven door to check the temperature of that chicken you are roasting). Alternatively, you might replace the traditional oven with a higher-mounted wall unit. That would eliminate the need to bend down altogether — and might make baking and roasting more enjoyable!
The bottom line? Define your budget first. Then, make a list of priorities — and lean on helpful employees at your local remodeling store or a general contractor you trust. That way, your changes will make a lasting difference and add to the quality of your parents’ lives.
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