Aging in place ideas for renovating a Brooklyn apartment, Part 2

The kitchen and bathroom are two of the most important areas in an apartment, even more so when trying to keep the landlord or tenant living in it safely and independently. Throughout this blog, I will talk about my experience making repairs to these two areas and will give specific ideas as to how to make them more user-friendly. I will also provide solutions to improve the use of lighting and electric fixtures around the apartment.


  • If you are getting new appliances, pick ones that have easy-to-read, simple controls near the front of the cabinet edge.
  • Faucets:  Choose faucets with one control in the middle or choose paddle-style controls. Avoid small knobs that twist to operate the faucet.
  • Consider a hands-free faucet if you have hand/arm issues like arthritis.  If arthritis runs in your family this may affect you in the coming years.
  • There are some technologies available that can control the temperature of the water at the spigot (faucet). This is a good way to prevent scalding if the building has water that is way too hot.
  • Make sure to plan for a countertop near the cooking surface, so that pots can be set down easily if needed. Consider a work area or two that has a lower countertop height – that way people of all ages and abilities can help prepare the meal (and clean up!)
  • Flooring: Choose flooring in the kitchen that is different than the color of the cabinets. Kitchens can be a dangerous place and often people are carrying things. Anything you can do to make walking paths safer is a good investment and contrasting colors are a simple way to do this.


  • Very important! Have the contractors install 3/4” plywood backing behind the sheetrock of all walls, especially near the shower and toilet!  You’ll want to have this in place if it is ever needed for grab bar support.
  • Create a walk-in shower that does NOT have a built-up tile barrier between the shower area and the room. (“zero step entry”). There are beautiful, well-designed drains that will keep the floor dry. No need to create a short wall that someone might not be able to get over.
  • Bathroom falls are common and dangerous. Choose a floor tile that is less “slippery when wet.”
  • Place the toilet in an area where there is room to maneuver around it.
  • Consider a sink that is bolted to the wall and DOES NOT HAVE a vanity under it. I know storage space is very important in Brooklyn apartments, but work with your designer to create other storage. You can even have your plumber align the pipes parallel to the wall, so that there is more “roll under” space for those that may need wheelchair access. Be aware to insulate the pipes if they are close to where bodies will be.  And again — paddle controls for the water, not knobs.


  • Install rocker-style lighting controls, not the traditional switch kind. Dimmers are also helpful. Motion-detecting lights can help someone get around safely at night. There are even touch-free switches available.
  • Choose fixtures that light the way and the task, but that do not shine directly into the person’s eyes.  Task lighting and lighting design in general, make spaces more inviting and safer.
  • Be creative! Lighting is a place where you can really let your personality and priorities shine.
  • Consider installing a few outlets near “social areas” that are higher up the wall then the usual 14” from the ground.  (Outlets at that height are most useful to children who like to stick things into them.)

There are so many more things to think about – and if you are working with a good architect, they probably will present these kinds of ideas to you. But if you are working with a contractor on just a part of your apartment, you might need to guide them to the solutions you want.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you do not need to compromise AT ALL on good style to make your home welcoming to everyone.  In fact, thoughtful design choices will open worlds of creativity and accessibility that may also give you a return on your investment immediately and years to come!

Consult with an Aging in Place Specialist if you would like to make your loved one or family member safer and more comfortable in their home throughout their golden years.

Kristine M Samms
856 345 9208
Safe, functional, dignified living in your home.

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