I have had the pleasure of assisting my mom with the renovation of her 50+ year old kitchen. She lives in Maryland, I’m in Mississippi so any help I provide is strictly over the phone. Her research and ideas are coming from the remodeling company she has hired and a couple visits to the store to look at flooring, counters, paint, tile and appliances. She’ll tell me what she saw and I’ll look it up on line with some comments, questions and advice. Most company websites have a virtual-room program so you can pick your colors to see how it works out. My mom is not wired in on the internet which presents a challenge: I can see the finished room, she cannot, but she now knows that her stores can log into the websites to help her out.
It’s going well so far with only one problem: the refrigerator compressor is not working properly. She’ll get it fixed using the home warranty company I advised her on.
Mom is not doing a total renovation. She had the floors pulled up and the walls painted. She is using her old cabinets with new counter tops and having the cabinets refinished with new doors and fresh paint. While it fits her budget much better than creating completely new cabinets I did have to question her about her choice of drawers versus cabinets for the lower cabinets. You see, lower cabinets require bending over, stooping down or kneeling on the floor to find that pot, pan or tray that is stored down there. And for most Seniors, that can be a challenge. It wouldn’t have been an issue except that I have drawers in my kitchen in the lower cabinets and, having a challenging back problem, the drawers are most convenient for me for storing and retrieving items. I wanted to offer her that option, at least to think about, before her cabinets were completed.
The drawers are a little more costly and she opted to keep the cabinet doors instead but we got the conversation going about what types of things she needed to store in those lower cabinets to make her life physically easier. What does she have that she doesn’t used often? What types of larger items can she store down there that would be out of the way? Does she have to use up the entire cabinet space or just the front area which would keep her from having to kneel down on the floor to rummage through her things?
For many Seniors, the kitchen they have now is most likely the kitchen they have had for years. It has gone from a room functioning for a family to one functioning for just one or two people. Usually, the same pots, pans, cookie sheets, storage containers, glass- and dinnerware are still making that kitchen their home. So in most cases Mom and Dad haven’t thrown or given away anything. Considering a lifestyle change involving kitchen cabinets is not on their bucket list.
This is where the kids come in, or a consultant who specializes in Senior lifestyle and living space. For my mom, when she renovated everything she owned was removed from the kitchen. It won’t all go back and it will now be placed differently by her consultant.
Are your parents still using their same kitchen with items in the same place as you remember them? Hire a cleaning person to remove everything and wash out the cabinets. Go through the items with your parents and decide what hasn’t been used in a long while and what won’t be used in the future. Arrange the cabinets now buy placing the most used in the most convenient spaces. What is left, that your parents refuse to get rid of, can now go into the harder-to-get-to cabinets like the very-high shelves or the back of the lower cabinets.
Consider some drawers in the lower space; at least one cabinet of drawers large enough for the heavy items, like pots and pans. Leave the top shelves empty or put seasonal items there.
If your Senior parent has a separate pantry, consider leaving the top shelf empty and putting in some drawers for the lower shelves. That will keep your loved ones from climbing a step ladder or chair and risk falling. I realize there are grabbers on the market for higher shelved items but I feel these can add an element of danger to your Senior parent. What if they lose their balance grabbing that 5 pound bag of flour from the top shelf? See what I mean? So your goal is to make your Senior parent’s access to items in their kitchen as easy as possible and with their safety in mind.
Having drawers in my current kitchen, I have come to appreciate the ease they offer to my life. The heavier pots and pans go in the middle drawer to make lifting them in and out easier on my back since I don’t have to bend down very much. Lids go in the bottom drawer since they aren’t used as often and are lighter in weight.
For my mom, there is an optional cabinet she is considering, as of this writing, next to her wall oven where she currently has a stand-alone pantry. There she may put two middle-to-lower drawers for pots and pans that she uses often.
If you insist on leaving the cabinet drawers, there are drawer inserts you can use for your pots and pans and other items. These will help keep down the cost of totally new cabinets and can be installed at any time during or after the renovation.
Mom did pick out new stainless steel appliances…much prettier I’m sure than the old brown enamel appliances. She’ll enjoy it.
Eileen Saunders, SRES REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford MS 38655 662-404-0816 / 662-234-5344 Equal Housing