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Monday January 22, 2018

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Improve a Kitchen's Accessibility

A while back you wrote a column on how to make a bathroom safer and easier to use. What about the kitchen? At 80, my mother still loves to cook, but has arthritis and some mobility challenges that make it difficult for her. What kitchen accessibility tips can you recommend?

The standing, bending, reaching, gripping and lifting that often comes with cooking makes the kitchen one of the most challenging rooms in the house for individuals with accessibility issues to use. Here's what you can do.

Small Modifications

There are simple solutions and inexpensive add-ons that can make a big difference in making your mom's kitchen safer and easier to maneuver. Consider these tips:
  • Cabinets: Start by reorganizing your mom's kitchen cabinets so that the items she frequently uses are within comfortable reach. You can also make her cabinets and pantry more accessible by installing pull-out shelves or lazy susans, or for the hard-to-reach upper shelves, a pull-down shelving system. D-shaped pull-handles for the cabinets and drawers are also recommended because they're more comfortable for arthritic hands to grasp than knobs.
  • Lights: Aging eyes need more light, so install the highest wattage bulbs allowed in your mom's fixtures. To brighten up her kitchen countertops, add task lighting under her cabinets.
  • Faucet: If she has twist handles on the faucet, replace them with easy-to-turn lever handles, an ADA compliant faucet with a single lever handle or the new Delta touch technology faucet. For safety purposes, set your mom's hot water tank at 120 degrees to prevent water burns.
  • Stove: If her vision is poor, clearly mark the controls on her stove or replace her dial controls with larger, easier to read dials. And if memory is an issue, an automatic stove shut-off device (see cookstop.com, stoveguardintl.com and pioneeringtech.com) is a smart solution.
  • Microwave: If your mom's microwave is mounted above her stove, consider moving it to a countertop. It makes it safer and easier to reach.
  • Other areas: If she has kitchen throw rugs, reduce the possibility of tripping by securing them to the floor with double-sided rug tape or replacing them with non-skid floor mats. If standing for long periods causes her problems, get a kitchen stool so she can sit down while she works. To help her arthritic hands, invest in some OXO Good Grip (oxo.com) or other ergonomic kitchen utensils.

User-Friendly Appliances

If you're looking to buy your mom some new appliances, manufacturers like General Electric, Whirlpool, Bosch, Siemens and others make a variety of products designed with accessibility in mind. Here's what to look for:
  • Refrigerator/freezer: Side-by-side doors work well because the frequently used items (refrigerated and frozen) can be placed at mid-shelf range for easy access. Pull-out adjustable height shelves and water/ice dispenser on the outside of the door are also very convenient.
  • Dishwasher: Drawer-designed dishwashers that slide in and out are very handy. Have it installed on a raised platform (6 to 10 inches) to eliminate bending over.
  • Stove or cooktop: Look for one with the controls at the front so your mom won't have to reach over hot burners to turn it off; and make sure the controls are easy to read and use. Flat surface burners or continuous grates on gas stoves are also great for sliding heavy pots and pans from one burner to the next. Also ask about automatic shut off burners.
  • Oven: Self-cleaning ovens are a plus—consider a side-swing door model. They're easier to get into because you don't have to lean over a hot swing-down door. Also consider a wall-mounted oven, installed at your mom's preferred height to eliminate bending.
  • Washer and dryer: Front-load washers and dryers with pedestals that raise the height 10 to 15 inches are back-savers and easy to access.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published January 27, 2017
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