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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

32 Ways to Promote Aging in Place in the Kitchen

If you’re in the planning stages of a kitchen remodel, this is the perfect time to research ways you can make aging in place safer and more comfortable, whether you’re approaching your golden years or are decades away.

The kitchen is filled with opportunities to make aging in place easier. The goal of this kind of remodel is to reduce bending over, reaching and falling. Here are 32 ideas that you might incorporate into your new kitchen; talk to your designer or builder to find out which ones are feasible for your space and your budget.

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  • Counters of different heights—30 inches for people who are seated, the standard 36 inches, and 42 inches for people who can’t stoop—will accommodate the needs of almost everyone.
  • There even are motorized counters (and sinks) that can adjust to the needs of the person using the kitchen.
  • A retractable counter that pulls out beneath a wall oven gives you a place to set hot dishes as they come out of the oven.
  • Smooth countertops make it easier to slide heavy pans from one place to another, reducing the need to lift. Minimizing joints or grout lines also facilitates cleaning.
  • Using a different color for the edges of countertops will help someone with diminished vision identify the edge of the counter.
  • Rounded edges of kitchen counters and open shelves reduce the chances of serious bruises.


  • Pullout shelves increase the accessibility to items in lower cabinets.
  • Pull-down shelves do the same for upper cabinets.
  • Large drawers can hold more than just flatware and utensils.
  • Cabinet shelves should be no deeper than 10 inches.
  • Blind corner cabinets are notoriously hard to access, especially for someone who doesn’t relish getting on hands and knees. Use one of the creative accessories available, such as a Lazy Susan or half-moon swing-out shelving.
  • D-shaped handles on cabinets and drawers are easier to grip than are knobs.
  • Lower cabinets can be raised 6 inches off the floor, and uppers can be brought down a few inches.
  • Open shelving for frequently used items eliminates the need to open cabinet doors and can make things easier to find for people with vision or memory impairments.


  • A shallow sink 6 to 8 inches deep keeps you from having to bend over as much.
  • Leaving a space beneath the sink will allow someone in a wheelchair to use the sink. Cabinet doors below the sink can cover the opening when it’s not in use.
  • Hands-free or lever-handled sink faucets make life easier, as does a faucet mounted on the side of the sink, closer to the user. Pullout sprayers also help.
  • Anti-scald devices are available to prevent burns at the sink.


  • A microwave at or below the height of your counter eliminates reaching up for heavy, hot dishes and is accessible to someone in a wheelchair.
  • Stoves and cooktops with controls at the front are easier to manage, and large displays are easier to read.
  • Auto-shutoff features on cooking appliances increase safety.
  • Oven doors that swing to the side are easier and safer to use, and a wall oven can be mounted at any height.
  • A dishwasher elevated off the floor is easier to reach into.
  • An ultra-quiet dishwasher reduces background noise that might affect someone with a hearing impairment.
  • A pot filler next to the cooktop eliminates the need to carry a heavy pot full of water from sink to stove.
  • A side-by-side refrigerator with large storage spaces in the doors can be easier to access, and good lighting inside makes a big difference.
  • Long door handles on the refrigerator can be gripped from high and low.

Other Ideas

  • Natural lighting, higher wattages, and under-cabinet and task lighting.
  • Smooth but non-slip floor coverings.
  • Electrical outlets 18 to 27 inches off the floor.
  • Wide hallways, doorways, and kitchen clearances.
  • Rocker light switches or automatic lights that sense when someone is in the room.

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