Universal Kitchen Design:Creating a Safe and Comfortable Home Environment

Remodeling or building a new home? Make sure it's safe and comfortable for assisted living at home with our universal kitchen design recommendations. From reachable dishes to a single lever faucet tap, we cover it all.

Universal Kitchen Design:Creating a Safe and Comfortable Home Environment
Designing Kitchens for All: Where Accessibility Meets Style

Whether you're in the midst of a remodeling project or building a brand-new home, it's crucial to ensure that your living space is not only aesthetically pleasing but also conducive to assisted living at home. Universal kitchen design offers a solution that prioritizes safety, accessibility, and ease of use, reducing the need for physical strain or force. In this guide, we provide recommendations for optimizing your kitchen environment, helping you create a space where everyone can move about comfortably and independently.

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    • Placing dishes at a level that is reachable is an easy first step toward universal kitchen design if you are not ready to remodel.
    • Adjusting refrigerator shelves so beverages are accessible and at waist level, and the lightest foods are placed on higher levels.
    • A small jar opener will allow opening things without help.
    • A single lever controlled faucet taps are preferable when using universal kitchen design.
    • Rearrange the kitchen so that everything is reachable.
    • Make sure there are working fire extinguishers.
    • Placing the microwave on a lower stationary location is an easy effective use of universal kitchen design. This allows for easy access to the buttons and door handle. Never place the microwave near the stove.
    • Insert plastic wash containers inside the sinks if they are not in a comfortable position for reaching in to perform tasks. The elevation will aid in movement allowing ease of motion.
    • Store food in clear containers for easy viewing and selection. These can go from the refrigerator to microwave to the dishwasher.
    • Select trash cans where liners can be easily lifted out to a comfortable height for garbage disposal.
    • Decide which cabinets can be removed from under the counter to allow wheelchair access to the counter space. A good place to remove cabinets is the area under the kitchen sink. This would allow a wheelchair to be able to roll right under. Insulate the pipes to protect from accidental burns. This is a good example of incorporating universal kitchen design with easy changes.
    • It is important to ensure there is ample maneuvering space should the aging adult use a walker or a wheelchair in the kitchen.
    • Change cabinet doorknobs to magnetic catches - or the kind that opens when you press on it.
    • Make sure the area is well illuminated over the stove, sink and work areas and there is an area to sit to prepare meals.
    • Make sure all appliances are in good working order and they have controls that are easy to read and controls in the front. Appliances with large push pads are strongly recommended.
    • Side-by-side refrigerators have sections and shelves that sit at many heights. The lowest shelf might be a foot or two off the floor. The highest shelf could stand five feet from your toes. The lower shelves can be used by those who have trouble lifting their arms. People who have trouble bending can use upper shelves.
    • A side-by-side refrigerator is also easy to use if you're in a wheelchair. You can open the smaller doors without moving your chair too far away from the fridge. You can reach your food from where you sit. And, the freezer is no longer so far above your head.
    • A basic safety reminder is never cook in loose hanging clothes when cooking over the stove.

    Here are some things to consider if you are doing remodeling for an optimum kitchen environment using universal kitchen design:

      • For maneuverability, allow 48” between the counter top and cabinets for floor space. This will allow individuals in wheelchairs and walkers easier mobility.
      • Hang your higher cupboards 48 inches above the floor. Place your lower cabinets six inches above the floor. This way you'll do less stretching and bending.
      • There are new cupboard designs that have motorized cabinets move up and down the wall with the flick of a switch. Height-adjustable models attach with hooks to a rail that you screw into the wall. Place the cabinets where you want them. When the time comes you can move them if you want them higher, or need them lower. Universal kitchen design is a plan for making life easier.
      • Cabinet shelves should be no more than 10 inches deep. Otherwise, you may have trouble reaching the back.
      • When choosing shelves you should consider ones that slide out of your lower cabinets. Investigate the "full extension" drawers" that pulls out further than standard drawers. These will allow you to be able to reach whatever you need.
      • When considering new stovetops and ovens you no longer have to have the two of them together. Now you can have them placed where it is accessible for you.
      • Look for stovetop burners that sit below a smooth, glass top. These burners are more attractive than the old electric coils. Cleaning the glass tops is much easier to do. The stovetop should be installed so that 32 inches from the floor. There may come a day when you will need to sit to cook. Leave knee space below the counter so you can pull a chair in close.
      • You can also put your stovetop on a kitchen island. Then, you'll be able to reach it from both sides.
      • Controls that sit at the front or side of the stovetop and burners that aren't set in a straight line are safety features that allow you not to have to reach across hot burners to turn up the heat or stir a pot at the back of the stove.
      • Make sure your stovetop and oven are easy to read. Find a model that uses different colors to tell you which parts are hot and which parts are cool. Look for displays that use big numbers that you can see from across the room.
      • Mounting a wall oven in the kitchen so you won't have to bend or stretch. Choose a door that swings to the side like a microwave. This door will help you get closer to the oven when you take foods in and out. This will allow you to avoid those awkward positions so that you won’t have to lean across a hot door.
      • Counter tops should be of varying heights with at least one counter that is 28"-32" high. It easier much easier to chop and bake at this height. Someone who needs to sit while they cook will be able to do so without any discomfort. Just make sure there's enough knee space under the counter to pull up a chair or wheelchair. That knee space should be 30 inches wide and 27 inches high.
      • Be sure to choose counter edges that are rounded, not sharp. This will help reduce the injuries if someone falls in the kitchen. Consider making the edge of your countertop a different color than the rest of the counter. Choose a color that really stands out. That way, individuals with poor vision will be able to see clearly where the counter ends.
      • Investigate the type of surface that covers your countertop. It can also make them safer to use. Choose countertops that are smooth enough to let you slide heavy pots and pans. . A heat resistant surface on the counters that are near your microwave and stove top is strongly recommended or a roll out extended shelf underneath will allow you to place hot dishes on this surface when you take them from the oven. You won't melt the counter or burn yourself.
      • Install a sink with knee clearance. If you really want to think out of the box, investigate motorized adjustable height sink counter tops. The sink should have a hand held single lever faucet with an extended hose.
      • Dishwashers should be 8” off the floor. It will help you avoid bending and straining. Investigate a “quiet” dishwasher. This is great for the aging adult who has trouble hearing over background noise.
      • Investigate the right dishwasher unit that is best for you. There are smaller units available and will use less water and power and take up less space. Many of these units will mount on the wall or sit on a countertop...
      • Some dishwashers fit into what looks like a regular kitchen drawer. You load these "dish drawers" by sliding them out of your cabinet. If you are concerned that one is too small for when you have special occasions and all the family will visit, buy two! A unit that has two drawers holds as many dishes as your old dishwasher
      • Consider a pantry with adjustable height shelving on the door and inside the pantry. Shelves that pull out for easy accessibility is a plus within the kitchen environment.