Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×

Search

Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

9 Kitchen Updates to Help as You Age

New technology, lighting and storage can make cooking a whole lot easier


spinner image a modern kitchen updated for ease of use
Designer Kerrie Kelly’s renovated kitchen features touchless faucets, islands at varying heights and a hydration station.
Kerrie Kelly Studio, Lindsey King Photography

Kitchens may be the most popular room in the house: It’s where everyone tends to gather.​

Yet, how often do you think about the design and function of your kitchen? Some simple kitchen modifications may make cooking, eating, cleaning and other tasks easier as you age. ​

“Kitchens are typically overlooked,” says Travis Camerio, a general contractor, certified aging-in-place specialist and owner of Camerio Builders Inc. in the Atlanta area. “There are ways to simplify everyday tasks that can make a huge difference in the way you live.”​

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Perhaps you have difficulty reaching high shelves or bending over to lift a heavy appliance, especially if you suffer from arthritis or a bad back. Or maybe not everyone in your multigenerational home can sit at the breakfast bar: The stools may be too high for older adults or unsafe for small children, or the space might not accommodate a wheelchair. ​

The earlier you start thinking about and making changes to prepare for aging, the better, says Kerrie Kelly, CEO and creative director of Kerrie Kelly Design Studio in Sacramento, California. ​

“Good design features make sense whether you’re 102 or 2 years old,” says Kelly, who is a Zillow interior design national spokesperson and a board member for the National Kitchen & Bath Association. “One of the worst things is to need something at a certain time and have to go through a renovation. As much as you plan, there are always hiccups and things that could go wrong.”​

Here are nine ideas that go beyond cosmetic changes:​

1. Use smart technology​

Many home appliances and accessories have Wi-Fi capability and can be controlled by voice or a mobile app. Such “smart” technology includes touchless faucets, motorized window shades and sensor lights. Faucets you wave a hand in front of or activate by voice are helpful if your hands are slick with olive oil or sticky with dough or if you have arthritis or stiff fingers. These smart faucets will cost more — from about $400 to over $1,000.​

2. Stay hydrated​

The importance of staying hydrated and providing easy access to water and other beverages is making its way into kitchen design. Dehydration can be a real risk for older adults. As people age, their sense of thirst is blunted so they may not be aware their body needs fluids, and those with cognitive impairment may forget to drink altogether. A “hydration station” can be a reminder to focus on the liquid your body needs.​

At the recent Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, one of the most popular attractions was a high-end hydration station, Kelly says. Its special tap provides filtered cold water, sparkling water or boiling water with the push of a button, but it will set you back at least $5,000.​

“Hydration stations are designed for quality of life no matter what stage you’re at,” says Kelly, who installed one in her kitchen. “People report drinking 80 percent more water than before. It’s more sustainable than buying bottled water.”​

spinner image a woman using pull out kitchen cabinet organizers
Shelf organizers that pull out in two layers can be helpful for storage and for easier access.
Kerrie Kelly Studio, Lindsey King Photography

3. Reach inaccessible cabinets​

As people age, reaching high shelves or deep into dark cabinets can cause a fall or a strain. New options make it easier to get to what you need in your kitchen. ​

“Any interior cabinet component that brings what’s inside to you is a good idea,” Kelly says. That includes cabinet inserts, risers and slide-out shelves. You can install these yourself and they’re affordable: Prices start at $11 for basic inserts to around $100.​

Higher-end companies may offer more expensive options that include tiered shelving, which moves to the side to allow for a second layer of shelves to be pulled out. Prices start around $300 and top $1,200.​ ​

4. Don’t mess with trash​

Now you can get rid of trash without getting your hands dirty. The motion sensor in touchless trash cans senses when something is in front of it and automatically opens the lid. They’re more hygienic because you don’t touch a germ-filled container. Some models even include a built-in odorizer or voice controls. Prices for these battery- or power-cord-controlled receptacles start at about $45.​

5. Consider a different dishwasher​

“Universal design features are something I would recommend for younger folks who want to do some remodeling now instead of later,” Camerio advises. Universal design focuses on making a home livable for people of all ages and conditions.​

See more Health & Wellness offers >

Switching out traditional appliances for smart ones or new designs is a good starting point, Camerio says. It’s relatively easy to do because most appliances like ovens and dishwashers come in standard sizes, he adds. ​

Camerio, who also is a certified Home Adaptation Modification Professional, recommends a drawer dishwasher. Instead of a traditional model in which the door opens down, this type of appliance has drawers that slide out to load and unload so you don’t need to do as much bending and lifting to retrieve items. In addition, some models have two separate drawers that allow you to do a smaller load and use less water if needed or run two separate types of cycles at the same time — one for cleaning pots and one for regular dishes, for example. ​

If you don’t cook much or cook for one, you can opt for a single drawer instead of two. Prices range from about $900 to around $2,000.​

spinner image cooking a meal on an induction stove
An induction cooktop doesn’t get as hot as gas or electric stoves and the controls may be easier to use.
Getty Images

6. Change your cooktop​

Experts like induction ranges because controls in the front are easier to reach, they’re safer because the surface doesn’t get as hot as a traditional stovetop, and they’re easy to clean. Induction cooktops also cook your food faster. ​

Also, if you have a gas stove, you may want to consider a change. Studies have also shown that gas stoves release hazardous methane even when they’re turned off, which can negatively impact your health and the environment. ​

You’ll pay at least twice as much for an induction model vs. an electric range.​

7. Remove or reconfigure countertops​

If you have a small kitchen with an island, consider removing it for better maneuverability, Camerio advises. He likes at least 4 feet of space around an island. If your kitchen is large enough, consider having two islands at different heights or one multilevel island. ​

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.

Henry “Alan” Cobb, 66, a below-the-knee amputee, plans to modify his kitchen to enable him to move around more easily when he uses a wheelchair.​

The Georgia resident intends to remove a breakfast bar that juts out nearly 6 feet into the room but keep the counter space all the way across. “That will make it more usable and give my wife and I more room in the kitchen,” Cobb says. “When we’re both in there, we’re bumping into each other.” ​

Someone in a wheelchair needs at least a 60-inch turning radius, according to guidelines in the Americans with Disabilities Act. ​

Cobb also plans to lower the sink countertop to enable him to roll underneath it and the stovetop (the oven is separate) to operate them properly from his wheelchair. ​

8. Light up your world​

Bringing in natural light is best, but smart lights with sensors or timers can help illuminate darker areas or help people with poor eyesight at dimmer times of the day or night, Camerio says. He likes low-voltage lighting, including LED bulbs, commonly used in pendant, recessed and track lights. Lower-voltage lighting is safer and also uses less electricity, which may reduce your power bill.​

Kelly likes layered lighting, especially for countertop tasks. Consider some combination of an overhead ceiling light, under-cabinet lighting, recessed lighting and a skylight or sun tube (to bring in more natural light). She also recommends dimmable lights that can be adjusted for the time of day.​

9. Think in zones​

Creating kitchen zones for certain tasks can help make day-to-day activities easier, Kelly says. Make sure all of the coffee prep is near the coffeepot. If you like to make smoothies every morning, create a countertop area to store the blender and keep all of the ingredients in a drawer below, she advises. ​

Whether you’re building a new kitchen or renovating, thinking about the overall space is key, Camerio adds. How much space do you have to move around? How much space is there to perform everyday tasks?​

“Independence for everyone living in the home,” Camerio says, “is what we’re ultimately trying to achieve when designing kitchens.”​

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?