21 October 2008


As I wrote last week, many Americans are helping their parents cope with aging issues. If you’re one of them, here are some ways to help them function more effectively in their kitchens, without a major remodel. These suggestions will not only increase the kitchen's functionality, it can increase its value to a larger pool of home buyers.

Many of these tips will work well in your kitchen, too, especially if you have lower back issues that make it hard to get into some of your cabinets.
* Replace base cabinet half shelves with roll-out trays. This will also increase the storage of that cabinet by about 25 percent.

* Add roll-out trays to the bottom of base cabinets, as well. This will make it easier to reach items at the back of the cabinet. (Shown above right, Rev-a-Shelf's roll-out tray in wood keeps items organized and accessible.)

* Add a swing-out or lazy susan accessory to hard-to-reach base corner cabinets. Corner cabinets can be the toughest to access, especially those called "blind corner cabinets" that are typically placed next to a range or a dishwasher. Unless you have great knees and a flashlight, you're going to be hard-pressed to reach anything stored in that cabinet! Thankfully, there are now accessory systems that bring the back items to the front and save your back and knees!

* Replace cabinet knobs with easier-to-use pulls. These are especially helpful for older users with arthritis or Parkinson's. You'll probably have to add a back-plate to cover the knob hole, but there are some attractive ones on the market.

* Replace a knob-style faucet with a lever-handled faucet. These are also easier for older hands to operate.

* Replace a gas or electric cooktop with an induction cooktop. Induction cooktops use magnetic energy and only generate heat directly below and next to the pot. They can reduce the chance of someone with vision or memory challenges from burning themselves on a hot surface. For the same safety reason, they're great for kids, too. Induction cooktops offer additional benefits for all of us, too: they use far less energy and, because they don't heat up your kitchen, save on youf air conditioning bills, too.

* Add task lighting to your kitchen by illuminating your countertops with under-wall cabinet lighting. Brighter work surfaces can mean the difference between a perfectly-julienned carrot and a painfully-jabbed fingertip -- especially for those with vision challenges. As an added benefit, under-cabinet lighting can make your kitchen look bigger.

* Treat super-slick floors with an anti-slip treatment. Polished travertine is incredibly beautiful for high-end kitchens, but presents a risk of serious falls to older residents and visitors. To avoid this potential hazard, look into an anti-slip treatment like SureStep.

If more modifications and updates are needed in your home or your parents', please let me know. In addition to being an NKBA-certified kitchen designer, I'm also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. You can email me or call (813-810-0467).

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