Kitchen design not meeting older peoples’ needs

16 Jun, 14

Research highlights lack of communication to meet older peoples’ needs

Kitchen manufacturers and suppliers need to be more aware of the needs of older people, according to joint research by academics from Loughborough University and the Open University.

Led by Professor Sheila Peace of the Open University, the study found consumers too must take note if they want to be independent and stay in their homes longer.

The need for better communication between all parties is one of the major findings of a study called ‘Transitions in Kitchen Living’, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme.

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Dr Martin Maguire, one of five academics from Loughborough’s Design School involved in the research of people aged 60-90, said the main message from the study is a need for better awareness, particularly among manufacturers, consumers and suppliers.

He stated: “Some suppliers do have inclusive kitchen ranges (e.g Howdens) so this must meant that they are aware of the requirements of older kitchen users. However, we also have the experience at a trade show, of exhibitors not really focusing on older customers as it is believed that the main market for a new kitchen is the 20-50 year olds.”

Design issues highlighted by partipants in the research included wall cupboard shelves too high, poor lighting and window handles difficult to reach. They also cited sinks and worktops at an inconvenient height and no place to sit at worktops.

Dr Maguire stated kitchens better-designed for a person’s needs would eliminate such issues, e.g. pull-down wall cupboards, adjustable height worktops and mid-level ovens and this: “requires the customer to know about these features, to be able to elucidate their needs and to ask the supplier or the fitting company to satisfy them.” 

He added: “Suppliers and fitters could be more proactive in checking what customer’s physical and mobility needs are and offering solutions to meet them.”

In order to increase awareness among manufacturers, consumers and suppliers Dr Maguire believes there is a need for: “Training for the staff of kitchen design companies and kitchen suppliers, leaflets in showrooms and information on the web. A kitchen showroom could easily set up an example of an accessible kitchen to generate customer interest.”

Researchers also conducted a survey asking which innovations would help users the most and 93% pointed to automatic turn-off functions for electrical appliances.