The Refrigerator: No longer Just an Ice Box

February 18, 2022

Filed in: {Home Safety}

By Janet Engel, OT/L, CAPS

Our kitchen appliances are one of the biggest investments we make in our home. Where these appliances are placed in the kitchen helps to determine their utility and value to the homeowner, especially to older adults. In fact, the types of appliances and where they’re installed ultimately determine how smart, functional, and accessible a kitchen is. Many of the new designs for appliances from top manufacturers also help to make the kitchen stylish and beautiful. Let’s explore what appliance features are at the top of the list when it comes to accessibility and function for the refrigerator.

The refrigerator requires a planned space so that it does not protrude beyond the adjacent cabinetry and encroach on clear floor space. Plan a recess in the wall or extend the depth of your countertop to achieve a seamless look and safe layout. Also consider how much clearance you have in front of the refrigerator for door swing. Keep in mind that clear floor space should accommodate one user in front of the fridge and another person passing through.

Refrigerator design also has a significant impact on function and storage. A side-by-side refrigerator offers many height options for storage of food. Refrigerators with undercounter drawers increase accessibility from a sitting position. As designs continue to improve, consumers with a wide range of abilities will be able to use their appliances more practically than ever before.  

Smart technology in appliances is here to stay. And why would we ever want it to go away? These features can track stored food and allow for a longer shelf life through door mounted tablets for maintaining inventory. Eating spoiled food is a leading cause of food poisoning. Expiration dates are intended to alert consumers when a product should be thrown out, but these labels are small and difficult to read even for many younger adults. Seniors who can’t make out the expiration date often resort to the sniff test for foods like milk and meat. Unfortunately, this is far from foolproof, especially if their sense of smell isn’t as sharp as it once was. High tech detection, artificial intelligence (AI), and wireless connections help users plan meals with available food and develop a shopping list. Smart fridges incorporate Wi-Fi connectivity into a refrigerator, allowing for additional features like voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant. A smart fridge might be able to let you know if someone left the door open, perform diagnostics, and more. These features are invaluable for seniors and their caregivers. 

 Some of the features that improve the utility of a refrigerator are:

  • Water and ice dispensers on the doors for ease of use
  • Freezer located on the bottom of the unit
  • Side-by-side style-with columns of various width
  • French door style
  • Base cabinet drawer units specific for the refrigerator and freezer

As we age and our abilities change, we want our spaces and appliances to change with us as well, so we can remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. Let’s invest in products that are going to do the work for us and simplify our lives, increase safety, accessibility, and function, thereby helping us create a home for life!

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