An elderly couple cooking in a kitchen

Aging in Place Kitchen Design: Make Your Kitchen Senior-Safe

Actionable tips to improve a kitchen's safety, accessibility, and comfort for seniors.'



Aging in place is one of the most sought-after goals for seniors. Studies have found that 93% of adults 55+ see it as an essential goal. However, it's common for seniors to experience decreased mobility, eyesight, and hearing as they age.

Because of these impairments, kitchens pose a significant health and safety hazard for seniors. Consider these statistics:

To age safely at home, it's important to make the kitchen safer, more accessible, and comfortable for elderly individuals.

This article offers an in-depth look into kitchen design for seniors. We cover the essentials of kitchen design tailored to seniors and the various impairments that come with aging. After reading this article, you'll be ready to make the necessary changes to make your kitchen safer for seniors.

Benefits of Having a Senior-Friendly Kitchen Design

Before we cover the "what" of senior kitchen design, it's essential to cover the "why" of it. Understanding these benefits helps you see how it can improve a senior's quality of life. Consider these benefits:

  • Maintained Independence: A well-designed kitchen will enable seniors to retain their independence by making it easily accessible. This approach focuses on making everything in the kitchen easy to use, removing any hurdles traditional kitchens may cause.
  • Improved Safety: As highlighted before, the kitchen can be dangerous for seniors. A senior-friendly kitchen design focuses on reducing falls, burns, and fires to reduce the chance of injury.
  • Enhanced Quality of Life: Being independent and doing things yourself is vital to a good quality of life. Making these changes can foster confidence in seniors, boosting their emotional and mental well-being.
A close up of lighting in a kitchen


Lighting is an essential component of a senior-safe kitchen. A 2023 report found that over 27.8% of US adults 71+ experience vision impairment. Additionally, studies have found that the eye's ability to see light weakens with age.

When it comes to lighting, seniors need at least 50% more ambient light than younger people. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends the following light levels:

  • General/Ambient Lighting: 30-50 FC (300-500 LUX)
  • Countertop Task Lighting: 70-100 FC (700-1000 LUX)

Utilizing a light meter can help you measure light levels. Be sure to observe how easy it is for seniors to see and perform activities in the kitchen.

Take these actions to improve kitchen lighting and visibility:

  • Add extra lighting throughout the kitchen: Additional lights can even out the kitchen lighting and cover darker areas.
  • Install rocker switches: Traditional switches can be challenging for seniors with arthritis. Rocker switches offer a more manageable alternative and requires less effort.
  • Utilize natural light: Natural lighting is always the best form of lighting. Consider installing windows.
  • Add task, track, or under-cabinet lighting: Areas below and in cabinets tend to be darker. Adding specialized lights can improve their brightness and make tasks easier.
  • Consider installing motion-activated lights: These light types offer a convenient method of turning on lights. They remove the need to use a switch, which can be beneficial.
A blueprint of a kitchen layout with its dimensions outlined

Kitchen Layout

A key to a good kitchen design for the elderly is its layout. The kitchen layout must be easy to navigate without bumping into items. Consider these layout tips:

  • Ensure adequate space for movement: There must be enough clearance space, especially if a mobility aid is in use. The Americans with Disabilities Act recommends a minimum of 40" of clearance. They recommend 60" if a person uses a wheelchair.
  • Place the oven, sink, and fridge close together: These are the most commonly used appliances in the kitchen. Having them close together reduces the need for movement.

When considering the kitchen layout, perform a walk-through. Can a senior perform tasks and move easily? Look for certain areas they might struggle with and focus on opening them up.

A close up of kitchen flooring being laid


Kitchens are notorious for being a high-risk area due to slippery floors. Seniors are also infamous for being a fall risk. This creates a recipe for disaster if not resolved. When considering flooring, consider these flooring ideas for the kitchen for the elderly:

  • Install non-slip flooring: Replace any flooring with that of the non-slip variety. Mr. Handyman recommends flooring options such as cork, linoleum, rubber, and vinyl. They also recommend avoiding polished natural stone, porcelain/ceramic tile, high-gloss hardwood, and bamboo.
  • Remove throw rugs:Throw rugs are notorious for being fall hazards for seniors, especially those using mobility aids.
  • Install an anti-fatigue floor mat: These specialized mats offer an added cushion to reduce strain and can be great for seniors who tire easily.
Gray kitchen cabinets with appliances on the counters


Traditional cabinets pose a challenge for seniors. The mix of reaching up and down and sifting through items can pose a fall risk. Making changes to kitchen cabinetry can make the kitchen safer and more accessible.

Upper Cabinets

Upper cabinets often require reaching up and sometimes using a step stool. To remove these barriers, consider these changes:

  • Place upper cabinets 3" lower than the usual height: This reduces the distance required to reach up.
  • Replace knobs with lever style (or 'D') handles: Knobs can be challenging for seniors to grip. Lever handles are easier to use.
  • Consider pull-down shelves: Pull-down shelves are installed directly into the shelving. They pull out to make finding and reaching for items more accessible, removing the need to reach up and into shelves.
  • Install a pull-out step: A pull-out step is a great alternative if you can't modify upper cabinets. These are installed around the floor to act as a step stool.

Lower Cabinets

Lower cabinets often require reaching down and in to find items. This can strain a senior's body while also putting them at risk of a fall. Consider these ways to make lower cabinets easier to access:

  • Install pull-out shelves: This shelving pulls out from the cabinet, removing the need to reach init. This can make movement less straining and items easier to find.
  • Consider a lazy susan: Lazy susans come in various forms, but all utilize a circular tray that spins. This improves accessibility and organization by removing the need to reach items in the back of a cabinet.
A close up of marble kitchen countertops


Countertops house many of a kitchen's items. It's important that they are safe, easy to clean, and easy to maintain. Seniors should be able to easily reach for items without straining their backs. To make countertops senior-friendly, consider these tips:

  • Replace sharp edges with rounded edges: If a senior falls, the last thing you want is for them to come in contact with a sharp edge. Replace sharp edges with rounded corners to reduce the chance of a severe injury.
  • Lower countertop heights to 28" to 30": Standard countertops measure 36" tall which can be troublesome for seniors. Lowering the countertops can reduce the need to reach for items. Just be sure not to drop it too much, as this can require bending over.
  • Consider installing multi-level countertops: Countertops with various heights ensure they are accessible and comfortable for everyone, regardless of physical ability.
  • Use differently colored edges: Having color-contrasting edges makes them more visible for seniors to improve their spatial awareness.
A vintage refrigerator on wood flooring

Appliances & Kitchen Items

Kitchen appliances are a vital aspect of any kitchen. It's important to ensure seniors have easy access and are in a position that does not increase fall risk. Consider these tips:

  • Install a shallow sink 6" to 8" deep: Deeper sinks require reaching in. This can be challenging for those with mobility issues. Shallower sinks reduce this barrier.
  • Install wall ovens: Wall ovens sit at a higher distance and remove the need to bend over.
  • Place the microwave below or at counter height: This removes the need to reach up or bend down.
  • Install hands-free or lever-style faucets: These are easier for seniors with dexterity issues. Pull-out sprayers are ideal.
  • Consider replacing the refrigerator: The ideal refrigerator has long handles for an easy grip, door storage, adequate lighting, and slide-out shelving.
  • Accessible dishwasher height: When considering dishwasher height, the key focus is the bottom rack. Standard dishwashers have a bottom rack height of 4" to 5" inches from the ground. The Americans with Disabilities Act recommends that the height be 15" to reduce the bend level.
  • Opt for a popup toaster: Popup toasters are easier than "reach-in" toasters.
  • Replace glass dishware with plastic: Glass can shatter and cause injury when dropped. Replacing glass with plastic dishware removes that hazard.
  • Install a medical alert device: These devices can be helpful in emergencies. They eliminate the need to call for help and can notify emergency personnel with a button.
  • Purchase a senior-friendly fire extinguisher: Standard extinguishers can be heavy and challenging for seniors. Opt for a lightweight fire extinguisher that seniors can use without struggle.
  • Invest in senior-friendly kitchen items: Many items, such as reacher grabbers, rocker knives, jar openers, and cut-resistant gloves, can make using the kitchen safer and more accessible. Consider these aging in place kitchen items.

Empowering Independence with Senior Citizen Kitchen Design

Aging in place is one of the most rewarding aspects of aging. Making the proper kitchen modifications for the elderly can promote seniors' peace of mind and confidence in their homes.

About the Author

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Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands

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Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.

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