« Back
Thu ,09/07/2015

Universal Design

In a recent meeting with a prospective client we were told there are 6,000 people in the United States that turn 65 every day and that trend will continiue until 2030.  Another trend we are starting to see is the desire of those people to stay in their own home or a home that is specifically designed to address their needs as they age.  I’ve recently been through that with my parents. They did not want to move to a retirement home or care center and be warehoused.  They insisted on living at home, being in a place where they were comfortable, familiar with and easy for family members to visit and stay over.  When I designed this home for them in the late 90′s many of the features they would need as they aged were incorporated and for the most part has worked very well. But, there are additional features that are now available that make staying home, as they age, easier. There are design modifications that can be made to address memory care issues and features in both the bathrooms and kitchens that can make a signficant differnce in the ease and comfort of living at home during these later years of life.  The following article address some of the features that are now being designed into the home.  We recently visited a kitchen exhibit that was specifically designed for the aging. It incorporated a dishwasher that was elevated about 18″ above the floor on a base cabinet that made it very easy to place and remove dishes with out bending over or from a wheelchair.  This is only one example of some of the changes we now utilize in creating living spaces of Universal Design.

Optimal Space Planning for Universal Design in the Kitchen

Let everyone in on the cooking act with an accessible kitchen layout and features that fit all ages and abilities

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, shouldn’t everyone be able to use it? With extra thought, the kitchen can accommodate all — from little ones baking their first batch of cookies to baby boomers beginning to deal with joint issues, to those already dealing with physical limitations. Kitchens require more attention than ever if we are to truly embrace the concept of universal design.
Universal design is simple and intuitive, with features and products that allow people of all ages and physical abilities to live comfortably and safely. For a space as busy and important as the kitchen, this can only be a good thing. Here’s how to adapt some basic areas in the kitchen using universal design principles.

eclectic kitchen by Tektonics Architecture

by Tektonics Architecture

Doors
If your kitchen has a door, ensure it is at least 36 inches wide to offer a clear opening

for those using an assisted device. The double doors to this kitchen more than

sufficiently qualify.

contemporary kitchen by Patrick Perez Architect

by Patrick Perez Architect

If you can get rid of the door entirely, even better. This eliminates a common

 obstacle of getting to the kitchen: having to push open or operate any kind of

door hardware while balancing armloads of groceries.

traditional kitchen by Marlene Wangenheim AKBD, CAPS, Allied Member ASID

by Marlene Wangenheim AKBD, CAPS, Allied Member ASID

Traffic
When planning a kitchen, opt for 42 inches to an optimal 48 inches between

counters. This allows for more than one cook in the kitchen and also lets

anyone in a wheelchair or walker easily function without banging into cabinets.

 In a U-shape kitchen, plan for 60 inches of clearance minimum between

opposing counters. This allows a wheelchair to have a comfortable turning radius.

contemporary kitchen by Charlie Simmons - Charlie & Co. Design, Ltd.

by Charlie Simmons – Charlie & Co. Design, Ltd.

Larger open kitchens and spaces seem to function best when obstacles

are completely eliminated.

contemporary kitchen by Monarch Renovations

by Monarch Renovations

If traffic passes behind a seated diner at a peninsula or island, plan for at

 least 60 inches of space behind to allow passage for a person in a wheelchair.

contemporary kitchen by Magni Inc

by Magni Inc

Raised toe kicks allow greater foot and toe clearance for anyone

 in a wheelchair, and let them get closer to the countertop or

workstation. The toe kicks should be a minimum of 9 inches high.

The kitchen shown here just about eliminates them altogether,

opting for contemporary furniture legs for support that are still

easy to work around.

modern kitchen by Henrybuilt

by Henrybuilt

Another alternative to freeing up toe space is to have wall-

mounted cabinets, eliminating the toe kick altogether. This

option allows for complete customization of countertop height

and toe space.

kitchen by DJ's Home Improvements

by DJ’s Home Improvements

Workstations
If someone is in a wheelchair, plan workstations that have

clear space below them to allow for easy reach to fixtures.

Knee space should be a minimum of 30 inches wide.
Ensure that any exposed plumbing is insulated, covered or

behind door panels to prevent any burns from hot pipes.

You could also have retractable doors closing off the space

below the workstation when it’s not in use.

contemporary kitchen by InterDesign Studio

 

by InterDesign Studio

Here the cooktop also has clear space below for easy access.

kitchen countertops by independent4life.co.uk

by independent4life.co.uk

Pressalit Care Indivo Electric Lift Worktop Frame – GBP 1,919.77 »

Adjustable countertops and cabinets are another great feature

 to consider when planning your kitchen.Pressalit Care’s height-

adjustable lifting units enable you to create an optimal and

ergonomically correct working environment, allowing everyone

to work safely, together or independently.
Heights can be adjusted manually, with a hand crank, or at the

push of a button once it’s wired in by your electrician.

contemporary kitchen by InterDesign Studio

by InterDesign Studio

Counters
If you have room for an island or a peninsula that accommodates seating,

 make the counter 30 inches high — the same as table height. This offers

optimal seating for everyone, regardless of age or mobility. Little ones can

shimmy up onto a regular chair, and older folk don’t have to hoist themselves

 up onto a bar stool. A wheelchair can just glide on in too.

modern kitchen by röm architecture studio

by röm architecture studio

Include at least one workspace countertop at a height of 30 inches or less,

to accomodate someone sitting while doing tasks. Conversely, if the person

using this space is very tall, consider raising the countertop to a height that

will keep things ergonomic.

modern dining room by röm architecture studio

by röm architecture studio

This extended lowered counter is open underneath and accessible from

both sides, inviting little ones or those in chairs to take part in the daily

cooking activities. Chairs or stools can also slide under the counter,

turning it into a makeshift snack bar.