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By Erin Vostilal
When my mother decided to remodel her home and add a second story, I was able to convince her to take some simple steps now so that she can plan to age in place, in her own home.
Some easy updates now would make her home elegant and comfortable for an able-bodied and active person. And even though she’s active, there are those days when she has balance issues, her arthritis flares up, or her back hurts, limiting her mobility and desire to stand. So adding these convenient design elements now will allow her to seamlessly ease into her golden years at home, without the institutional look.
The kitchen was a perfect place to add some simple changes to make the kitchen accessible and convenient. My mom loves to cook and bake, but standing is sometimes difficult for long periods of time, and we wanted to prepare for a time when her mobility becomes decreased. Her mobility might change down the road, but her love for being in the kitchen will never change!
For the kitchen sink, we installed a brand new Touch faucet by Delta. This wonderful faucet turns on and off with a touch to the nozzle – no handles to mess with. Great for salmonella hands after handling a chicken, or anyone who has difficulty with arthritis and struggles to turn faucet handles. This would be convenient now, and down the road.
We added a workstation in the kitchen that was lower so she could sit and prepare food. We put a cute stool, upholstered in outdoor fabric for easy cleaning, where she can sit and chop or mix, for those days where she can’t stand for long periods of time. And down the road, it will be extremely convenient for cooking in her golden years as well. We placed it within access to the sink, so down the road she can have the option of lowering the sink as well.
We lowered the height of her microwave so that she wouldn’t have to reach up too far to pull food out, or struggle with the buttons being too high.
Dishwashers with drawers, instead of the traditional ones, are much more convenient and reduce the amount of bending the user has to do. This was a great solution for my mom who finds bending difficult now and then. Even the simple act of raising the height of a dishwasher can be a tremendous help to those with limited mobility.
Roll-out shelves and drawers were installed to help her reach items in the back much more easily, instead of bending and reaching. Instead of knobs on the cabinets, we installed old-fashioned pulls that are elegant and chic; these are very easy to use if one has arthritis or difficulty opening a cabinet or drawer by grabbing onto a knob.
The refrigerator had to be replaced, so we selected one that has the freezer on the bottom with the pull-out drawer. My mom doesn’t use the freezer as often, so it’s much more convenient for her have the refrigerator part on top. Now she doesn’t have to bend down to get items out.
Fatigue is a common issue for anyone who stands at their kitchen counters too long. But throw in decreased mobility, arthritis or back problems, and standing at the kitchen counter can be a real problem. For my mom’s kitchen, we installed cork floors that are not only non-skid and safe, but they are soft and give beneath your feet. An added bonus, cork floors are also green!
These simple adjustments to make my mom’s home convenient and accessible to her in her golden years, are also easy changes that make her home comfortable now. Preparing the home for years to come has become less institutional and can look chic and elegant. My mom’s visitors would not notice the subtle amenities we’ve added during this remodel , but her daily life will be much more convenient.