Appliances and homes designed for seniors and aging in place

As the baby boomers age and retire, they are not only customizing their homes, but also choosing appliances with features which will allow them to age in place while remaining safe in their homes.

Both homes and appliances are incorporating the aspects of universal design into their products. Universal design means designing products and spaces that are accessible to people with different levels of abilities.  Along with the increasing numbers of aging baby boomers, there is also a growing trend of multi-generational homes. According to the, “more than 51 million Americans  find themselves dealing with life in a multigenerational home, or a household with three or more generations living under one roof.”AppliancesforSeniors_aginginplace

A story in the Washington Post talks about one such couple designing their home so they can age in place; Tom and Susie McSweeny of Maryland, who  built their home with wide doorways to accommodate a wheelchair and a flat, no-step entryway. They also designed their kitchen to include plenty of room to allow for easy access to all food prep areas and appliances. Their laundry room is on the first floor, eliminating unnecessary steps to reach this area.

“You have to be realistic,” says Susie in the Washington Post story. “You don’t know what health issues you may develop as you get older, but you try to plan for it so that you can enjoy your later years.”

The AARP reports that most older Americans want to stay in their homes permanently and live independently. In order for this to happen, homes and appliances must be designed to be accessible and safe for those with future mobility, vision and health problems.

Appliances designed to eliminate bending, reaching

The placement of appliances is important, as are the features. For example, the washer and dryer in the McSweeny’s home is perched atop of a storage pedestal to alleviate bending and reaching.  There are two ovens in the kitchen area- one under the range and another wall-mounted oven that is easier to reach.

Under counter dishwasher drawers

Dishwasher drawers are accessible at kitchen counter top level, eliminating the need to bend and reach. Photo courtesy of: John P.S. Salmen, AIA, Universal Designers & Consultants, Inc.

Other examples of appliances designed and placed for accessibility, dishwasher drawers placed at kitchen counter level, eliminating the need to bend and reach,  while four-door model refrigerators are easier to open and require less strength. Wall ovens like the GE Profile Wall Oven, contain two separate ovens in the space of one. The smaller upper oven has a shorter oven door, allowing for easier reaching and not so much bending in order to cook an everyday meal for two.

Appliances with senior-friendly features

Appliance manufacturers such as General Electric, Bosh and  Dacor are designing  appliance features for those with future visions and hearing impairments.

According to this story in the Wall Street Journal, “The Discovery wall oven by Dacor features a display panel with adjustable font sizes and color-contrast options to make words easier to read.”

Universal designed kitchens

A senior sits comfortably at a kitchen counter top preparing a meal. Photo courtesy of: John P.S. Salmen, AIA, Universal Designers & Consultants, Inc.

Other appliance features include sensors that detect when pots are about to boil over, adjustable LCD touchscreens and placing knobs and controls on the front of appliances where they are easier to reach. Refrigerators are including brighter LED lighting inside to make it easier to see food items.

Seniors might want to consider switching to an  induction cooktops. Since induction cooking does not use a flame or radiant heat to cook food, the cooktops remain cool to the touch reducing the possibility of an accidental burn or fire.

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