Senior Living Resources Lutheran Senior Services
Preparing Your Home for Aging in Place: The Kitchen

Preparing Your Home for Aging in Place: The Kitchen

What’s cooking?  For the majority of older adults, their ideal is to age independently in the place they call home. But not all homes are ready for aging in place especially if and when an individual may have physical limitations or disabilities. A key to aging in place and living independently is making sure your home is comfortable, safe, and accessible. The goal is to make sure it can accommodate your needs, as well as others living in the house with you.

Let’s think about what your home’s kitchen may need as you and your loved ones age.  This includes a look at appliances as well as the environment of what many people consider to be the “heart of the home.”

Lighting – Make it Bright

Make sure you have plenty of light in the kitchen — especially in the areas where you will be working most.  Next, consider having the lights on a three-way switch, so you can turn them on from every entry and exit point in the kitchen. Rocker-style light switches are also a smart addition to any kitchen because they are easier for those with disabilities or arthritis to operate. Plus, they can be illuminated.

Under-cabinet lighting can provide a significant improvement as well. It has gotten less expensive with LED fixtures, and it makes a dramatic difference in being able to see what you are doing on the counter as you measure ingredients, chop veggies, or do other prep.

Refrigerator With Two Doors

Some fridges can even make your kitchen more functional as you age.  For example, double-door fridges are easier to open and take up less space when open than single-door fridges. Those can be very important features for those using a walker.

Having an ice maker and water dispenser is a real benefit too. They reduce the number of times you have to open the fridge, and they make it easier to stay hydrated, which is critical as you age.

Microwave – Keep it Low

The more you age, the more overhead microwaves may become a hazard. You do not want to be pulling hot, heavy dishes out of a raised unit. It drastically increases the chances of hurting yourself.  Consider lowering your microwave to counter level.

Stove and Oven – Reach Less

As you age, you can lose your dexterity and strength. That can make reaching over burners, and hot pots and pans a dangerous proposition. As a result, it is recommended that older Americans have a stove with controls at the front.

However, this may not be the case if you have grandchildren or other youngsters living or visiting in the home. You do not want them to be able to turn a burner or the oven on, which can create burn and fire hazards.

If you decide to remodel your kitchen for aging in place, you might want to consider a wall oven. Because it is taller, so you do not have to bend to lift heavy dishes out of the oven. Plus, that allows you to put your stovetop anywhere you want.  Having an oven with a door that opens out to the side instead of pulling down can be even nicer — because then the door is not in your way as you are pulling dishes out.  This is a newer innovation in ovens that is worth checking out if you are replacing your unit.

Flooring – Make it Non-Slip

All flooring surfaces in the kitchen should be non-slip, even when wet. Avoid slippery waxes on floors. This can be achieved by using a choice of several different materials on the floor.

Vinyl flooring, ceramic or stone tiles, laminate, or engineered wood flooring are all options for kitchen floors.  Pick the materials you prefer, just as long as the bottom-line result is the same — the surface does not get slick.  If you are going to use a rug or mat by the sink, make sure it has a non-slip, rubber backing to prevent it from sliding.

Faucets – Avoid Twist Knobs

Instead of faucets with twist-knobs, use lever-style, one-touch, or automatic faucets. They are much easier to operate in general and especially if you develop arthritis, some other disability, or begin to lose motor control.  Being able to wave your hand next to the faucet to turn on the water makes cooking and hand washing easier.

In addition, it is a good idea to have the water temperature regulated to not exceed 120 degrees to prevent burns.

Fire Extinguisher Within Reach

Many homeowners wisely have fire extinguishers in the kitchen, but often they are not in a convenient place. Make sure you have an easy-to-use, easy-to-reach ABC-rated fire extinguisher on hand.  And know how to use it. There is a tutorial on the AARP Answers YouTube channel that shows proper fire extinguisher use so you can be better prepared.

Pro tip: Place fire extinguishers near the exits to your home. This allows you to fight the fire in a position in which you can easily exit the home should the fire get out of control.

About Work Surfaces

As you age, standing for long periods may become more difficult. As a result, it can be less taxing and safer to make sure you have a surface you can work at while seated — to prep food, read recipes, make your grocery list, etc.

And if you are in a wheelchair, installing a work surface you can sit at becomes paramount.  This can be accomplished in a number of ways that do not require an entire kitchen remodel, such as:

  • moving a small table and chair into the kitchen
  • installing a pull-out work surface
  • removing doors or shelves from lower cabinets, which will allow you to sit in a chair next to your countertop

Walker/Wheelchair Space

In general, you want to have room within the kitchen to get around — 36 inches minimum. Make sure the island and counter are at least 36 inches apart – for easy wheelchair or walker access.

Even if you do not use a wheelchair or a walker right now, you may suffer an injury or temporary disability that will require the use of one during your recovery. Making sure this moving space exists is a way to manage a temporary or permanent health problem.

More Kitchen Ideas

Other things worth considering for your kitchen:

  • Install a soap dispenser that can be operated with one hand.
  • Replace knob-style handles on your cabinets and drawers with D-shaped handles. This will make opening them easier if you suffer from arthritis or become injured.
  • Make sure there is an easy-to-access telephone or perhaps a smart speaker. You want to be able to call for help in the event of an accident or injury.
  • If your washer and dryer are located in the basement, move them next to the kitchen. Washer and dryer units are now more compact and even stackable to fit in smaller spaces. This will save you many trips up and down the stairs with baskets of laundry.

Lutheran Senior Services offers a full range of life planned at home services for aging adults:

  • Information and Referral
  • Care Management
  • Private Home Care
  • Home Health Care
  • Hospice Care
  • Palliative Care
  • PACE


Call Aging Answers for more information at 314.446.2475.

Back ToTop