Aging in Place: Kitchens

This is the fourth story in a series of articles about aging in place issues and decisions and how they relate to remodeling and new home construction.

For many homeowners, nothing speaks to the soul of the home as much as the kitchen. It’s a place where the morning coffee lives, where cookies are made, and where families and friends bond over meals. So when people begin to consider living throughout their senior years at home, the kitchen becomes a major consideration and a place where a little thought and attention can really help make it safe, accessible, and useful.

In this article we’re taking a closer look at some things people can do to make sure their kitchens are aging-in-place ready.

In the Beginning

The first step is to hire a Certified NAHB Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) such as Fazzolari Custom Homes and Renovations. We have passed a program to prepare homes for aging in place and can help you design your kitchen to use safely and comfortably for years to come.


Right now, you may be using your counters in a standing position, so at least some of them should be at that level. Later, you may find it more comfortable to use them while sitting. Then your counters should be 26 to 28 inches from the floor. The Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines (ADA) say “if seating for people in wheelchairs is provided at tables or counters, knee spaces at least 27 inches high, 30 inches wide, and 19 inches deep shall be provided.” Here’s some other tips:

  • Lower some of your counters to make them accessible via wheel chair;
  • Provide counter space next to appliances for dish landing;
  • Add some accent colors or stripes to the edges of cabinets to give contrast and aid visibility.

Cabinets, Shelves and Storage

Cabinets, too, are something you’ll be using every day. The keys are to make items in the cabinets easier to see and to reach:

  • Lower the wall cabinets;
  • Install rolling shelves, Lazy-Susan inserts, and pull-down shelving;
  • Install open-fronts or transparent doors;
  • Put a drawer or two in base cabinets;
  • Change to “D” shaped knobs;
  • Elevate cabinets 6 inches from the floor;
  • Mount wall cabinets no more than 48 inches from the floor.

Maneuvering Room

Wheelchairs and walkers require more space to maneuver than do legs. ADA guidelines specify a minimum clear space of 60 inches in diameter for a wheelchair to make a 180-degree turn and about 36 inches clearance between walls. We can help you integrate these changes in your design.

Appliances and Plumbing

Most, if not all, of your appliances will have to be replaced. Items to consider are:

  • Larger displays
  • A freezer-on-the-bottom or a side-by-side refrigerator
  • Induction cook tops and ovens
  • Elevated dishwasher
  • Cook top controls in the front and clearly marked
  • Electrical outlets at 27 inches above the floor
  • Sink controls on the side

According to the ADA, “lever-operated, push-type, touch-type, or electronically controlled” faucets are the best designs for easier use.

Floors, doors and thresholds

Make sure your flooring is stable, firm and slip-resistant. Replace ceramic tile floors with hardwood or vinyl for easy standing. Raised thresholds can be a trip hazard, so try to keep them at 1/4 inch high or less. Doors should be easy to open. Let us help you find lever-type door handles that will fit your decor and be easy for you to open.


Probably the most important consideration of aging in place is lighting your home. Install more lighting. And, install even more lighting. You will use every light you’ve put in. Also, consider using the rocker-type light switches.

Communication and Safety

Don’t overlook these key elements to making a safe kitchen:

  • Keep your phone close by and handy to decrease the need to hurry, which decreases the possibility of falling, and which can be helpful in emergencies;
  • Consider installing grab bars near areas where changing seats or going from sitting to standing is necessary;
  • Replace your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors with audio and visual alarms.

A Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist such as Fazzolari Custom Homes and Renovations understands the needs you have and is trained to help you sort through these decisions and make it easier for you to choose the ones that are right for you. If you are considering options for aging in place in the Portland, OR area then call Vancouver, WA Contractors Fazzolari Custom Homes and Renovations at 360-571-7027 or fill out our form for a free consultation.

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