Kitchens for all time

Picture shows a long island bench with white drawer cupboards and a timber benchtop. It has a low section attached to the front of the bench with a knee hole with two child sized bar stools. The knee space could just as easily suit a wheelchair userA well designed kitchen is essential for all members of the household. Participating in food preparation is important part of everyday life in many cultures. So anyone who wants to join in with meal preparation should be able to do so.

While the Consumer Report website article was published in 2015, many of the ideas are still current. Storage, work spaces, sinks and taps, lights and power outlets, flooring, doorways and handles, appliances, cookware and utensils are all covered.

With a growing trend to update kitchens every 12-20 years, renovation time is the best time to think about the usability of the kitchen into the future. 

Kitchens for later life

3 pictures of kitchens used in the study. One shows a china cabinet, the next a step ladder and the third an ironing board More than any room in the house, the kitchen needs to be a place where tasks can be done easily and efficiently. Kitchens are also an important area for social interactions during meal preparation and clean up. As people age, more thought needs to go into kitchen design to overcome issues such as reaching, bending, grasping and holding. However, this should not mean a complete kitchen renovation if these issues are considered in the original kitchen design.

Kitchen Living in Later Life: Exploring Ergonomic Problems, Coping Strategies and Design Solutions is the result of research from different disciplines in the UK. As an academic paper there are some technical references, but the reports of the interviews with older people are quite revealing.  Reaching and bending caused the most problems, as well as grasping and lifting. Lighting was also an issue, especially for reading the small print on packaging. The article proposes solutions, some of them related to rearranging things for ease of use.

Ironing proved to be the most difficult task. An interesting study, particularly as we can all relate to both good and bad kitchen design and fitout. This is especially the case with, say, a broken wrist, or slipped disc, which can happen to anyone at any time.

A related topic is the work at the University of Cambridge Inclusive Design team and their online Inclusive Design Toolkit. 

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