Kitchen living in later life: Exploring ergonomic problems, coping strategies and design solutions

The kitchen is an important area in the home serving many purposes both functional and social. It is central to enabling people to stay within their own homes in their later life. As part of a detailed study of ‘past’ and ‘present’ kitchen living, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 48 older people about their current kitchen and how well it met their needs. It was found that personal problems with reaching, bending, dexterity and sight were more likely to be experienced with increasing age while for specific tasks, ironing and cleaning created the most difficulty. The paper reports on coping strategies and simple innovations made by the participants to address the problems they experienced. A challenge for kitchen designers, manufacturers and installers is to think in terms of kitchens that are more flexible and adaptable to people’s changing needs.