The “new” retirement would wisely be referred to as “unretirement,” a decades-long, active, involved extension of life. Home will be headquarters during this exciting stage of life, and the kitchen will be command central. From untraditional housing styles to universal design, the kitchen will be the first true age-free space.
Retirement age is dropping steadily and even people in their twenties and thirties eagerly contemplate their move into the phase of life that used to mean the end of all that mattered. Not so in the 21st century; unretirement can bring new freedoms, lucrative ventures, broader horizons, personal fulfillment and global connections – and all this as you sit at the kitchen table enjoying a morning coffee. Kitchens will continue to come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. They will always be loved as much for their flaws as their charm and convenience. Housing styles and development patterns that isolate residents and create urban sprawl will be replaced by designs and plans that are both environmentally sound and people friendly. One trend will shift couples and single homeowners towards compact, green new homes and away from energy- hungry monster houses. These scaled-down residences will not just be smaller, they’ll be smarter. For instance, some homeowners may concentrate food production in the kitchen through hydroponic or soilless gardening in glassed-in extensions that double as dining rooms. Kitchen-centric, multi-unit housing will become more common with home-like variations that include: home appliances electronics
- cluster homes constructed around central courtyards that function as common outdoor eating areas and kitchen gardens,
- co-housing communities which integrate separate family units with communal recreation and eating areas to strengthen community connections, and
- mingle-style high-rise units with private bed-sitting rooms radiating off central kitchens and living areas to offer affordable, elegant lifestyles.
Our First Age-Free Environments
Too often thoughts of the future focus on how technology will change our lives, ignoring an important fact: we’re going to change, too. Every aspect of life will be touched as the demographic revolution represented by almost 10 million Baby Boomers moves through life. Kitchens will be our first age-free spaces as they transform into multi-purpose, multigeneration work and entertainment spaces where safety and functionality are paramount for all sizes, shapes and abilities of users. Children and grandchildren, parents and grandparents, the able-bodied and those with disabilities must all be comfortable socializing, cooking and eating in these activity centres. Age-Free environments have flexibility designed in. Universal Design, an emerging concept that will soon become commonplace, stresses the elimination of all barriers to functionality and enjoyment for everyone. These Age-Free features range from wide hallways, levered door handles and adjustable-height counters to visually-cued ergonomic design applied to everything from control knobs to furniture. All of which furnish a kitchen that allows the joy of cooking to be the focal point.