According to a recent Costco Connection article, 80 percent of home shoppers rank their kitchens as their favorite space in their homes. Then, it should be no surprise that kitchens are the most frequently renovated rooms in our houses and that renovations regularly range from $22,000 to $50,000.
But what if you are a senior and on a fairly tight budget? The family house suits you mostly just fine, but how can you make the kitchen more senior friendly?
Here we look at some practical, budget-minded and relatively easy fixes that can improve the functionality and pleasure of our beloved kitchens.
Affordable ways to improve seniors’ kitchens
We found some very helpful suggestions for improving our kitchens at a caregiver website called dailycaring.com.
- Update lighting
Poor lighting can be a big problem. A really good idea is to replacing any regular light switches with rocker light switches. These work for the whole hand and take less effort than traditional switches.
Then, check-out the current light bulbs in the room. Replace old bulbs with LED lights to remove the harsh light that can be hard on the eyes. Install task lighting above workstations, below upper cabinets, and in storage spaces.
- Make storage more accessible
Guess what? It doesn’t take any money or much work to reevaluate where you should put kitchen items that you use every day. In general, it is much easier and safer for older adults to pull out shelves instead of crouching down or using a step stool to reach inside.
That said, even if you use a wheelchair, items such as cookware and daily dishes should be placed between waist and shoulder height. Another tip is to store dishes and baking sheets on end by adding dowels in your existing cabinets. You can also find ready-made inserts at various home stores. Consider lazy susan trays, full-extension slide shelving, sliding wire organizers, and pull-down shelves as well.
- Make drawer handles easier to use
Arthritic hands make it difficult and uncomfortable to manage round pull knobs. For an easy improvement, replace any pull knobs with wide drawer pulls (also called D-shaped pulls). Touch drawers, that pop open when touched, are also a great idea.
- Make the kitchen faucet easier to use
Consider replacing the old faucet with easier-to-use lever-style fixtures instead of twist knobs. Another idea and even better are motion-sensor fixtures like we see in public restrooms these days. A simpler and less expensive option is to add a motion sensor adapter.
- Use contrasting colors to make things easier to see
For those with limited vision or dementia, colors and labels can be incredibly helpful. You could add non-slip tape on the floor to create a contrasting border that makes it easier to see where the floor ends and the wall begins.
A simple way to make sure the stove knob isn’t left in the on position is to put red nail polish on the “off” position. This also makes it easier for your older adult to check that it’s off without having to walk across the room.
- Add a work table
Sometimes a lower countertop is helpful, especially for older adults who are in wheelchairs or have lost height due to osteoporosis. An inexpensive solution is to buy a 30-inch-high corner table or kitchen island. It should fit a wheelchair underneath and still be at the right height for food preparation.
Or, if you want personalized help, get an in-home assessment with an occupational therapist, or OT, who can evaluate your home, make modification recommendations and refer you to products and services to help you make improvements. Medicare will pay for a home assessment by an OT if prescribed by a doctor. Ask your physician for a referral.