How the most important room in the home can help solve a government problem.
According to the Office of National Statistics ‘the population of the UK is ageing. Over the last 25 years the percentage of the population aged 65 and over increased from 15 per cent in 1985 to 17 per cent in 2010, an increase of 1.7 million people’ (see ONS Statistics). Furthermore, in five years’ time, the number of people hitting the age of 65 will begin to rise. On current trends it is projected to grow again in every one of the following 15 years (source: IPSOS/Mori, July 2011; see http://www.economist.com/blogs).
With the recent collapse of Southern Cross care homes and the current political debate about how to fund the care of the elderly, finding ways that allow older people to remain in their homes for longer would seem to us to form a realistic element of any solution. Not only will they be happier to be surrounded by friends and family but it will reduce the amount of time – and money – needed to fund their care should it become impossible for them to do so at some later stage.
But leaving them in the homes they may have lived in for many years without making adaptations that allow them to retain their independence and minimise risks to their safety could be considered foolhardy at best and dangerous at worst.
At Nicholas Hythe KitchenDesign Studio we’re seeing a higher number of elderly customers contact us about replacing their kitchens. Some are wanting to leave a higher value ‘parting gift’ to their descendants whilst others are looking to ‘insure’ against the need to fund their future care requirements by maximising the value of their home. But, thankfully, most are just looking at ways to make their lives easier and maximise the amount of time they are able to stay in their homes.
As a result, when we’re discussing their needs we’re increasingly thinking about features that will make their lives easier and safer.
So now we never design a kitchen for an elderly customer without thinking about, for example, how we optimise the use of features such as ‘magic corners’ in floor standing cabinets so that fewer wall units (which can be difficult to reach) are required without compromising the total amount of usable storage; pull out larders that eliminate the need for reaching in to find an item (which risks toppling over); pan drawers to reduce the amount of bending down required; slide away oven doors that reduce the need for over-extension when fetching something out of the oven; split level worktops to make life easier when working in the kitchen; induction hobs (which heat only the cooking vessel itself reducing the possibility of burn injuries) and, as kitchens increasingly morph into additional living rooms, glazed units for displaying those treasured memories that mean so much.
Many of these features can make a real difference to the elderly and allow them to retain their independence and enjoy living in their homes for longer whilst providing peace of mind for their families. Good kitchen design means meeting the needs of individual customers – however their requirements change – not a one-size fits all solution.
If the government is serious about looking at long-term solutions for the care of its elderly, surely finding ways that allow them to continue living independently in their homes for longer has to form part of the solution?
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