Kitchen Living

Transitions in kitchen living

Back to all projects Kitchen Living

The kitchen is often the focal point within the domestic home; a material, social and psychological environment encompassing both public and private space. ‘Transitions in Kitchen Living’ (the TiKL project) aims to examine the role, function and design of the kitchen within the lives of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s living in domestic and supportive housing in both urban and rural locations of England. A cross-generational perspective will focus on historical and contemporary aspects of kitchen life - through biographical, ergonomic and visual research.

The research will be grounded in secondary analysis of two existing data sets: (a) the EPSRC EQUAL funded: 'Profiling the Housing Stock for Older People' and (b) the ESRC funded: 'Environment and Identity in Later Life'. Guided by this research, a purposive sample of 48 older people (12 from each age-group) are participating through in-depth oral histories of kitchen living; contemporary assessment of individual health and well-being, and ergonomic assessment of present kitchens using photography and video to capture opinions and behaviours within the kitchen.

This research will contribute to the oral history of kitchen design; provide greater understanding of person/environment fit in terms of individual health and well-being, and lead to more inclusive design through the development of a Life Long Kitchen Guide to enhance existing guidance on kitchen design. It is also intended that the Guide will be brought to life by extracts of people’s experiences of kitchen life.


  • Sheila Peace (Principal Investigator), The Open University


  • Martin Maguire, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University
  • Colette Nicolle, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University
  • Clare Lawton, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University
  • Russell Marshall, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University
  • Ruth Sims, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University
  • Leonie Kellaher, London Metropolitan University
  • John Percival, Faculty of Health & Social Care, The Open University
  • Karen Francis, Research Secretary, Faculty of Health & Social Care, The Open University

Advisory Group

  • Jane Palmer and Stewart Jones, Age Concern Milton Keynes
  • Alison Wright, Royal College of Art, Managing Director of Easy Living Home
  • Pat Strachan, Care and Repair England
  • Caroline Jacobs and David Yelding, Ricability
  • Cathy Bailey, Ethnographer, University of Northumbria
  • Maggie Winchcombe, Years Ahead
  • Dr Caroline Holland, FHSC
  • Maurice Heather, PRP Architects
  • Anthony Slater, Thomas Pocklington Trust
  • Hilary McQueen, Faculty of Science, The Open University
  • Elizabeth Silva, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University
  • Teresa Lefort, Mary Sinfield and Diane Andrewes from the NDA Older People's Research Group

Contact details

Sheila Peace, tel: 01908-654240
Karen Francis, tel: 01908-654217


For people of all ages the kitchen can be the central hub of their home, a place of person-environment interaction that has a major influence on their individual health and well-being. Both public and domestic kitchens have been studied by researchers from many disciplines: social scientists, biologists, food scientists, architects, designers and ergonomists. Yet, there is a lack of integrated multi-disciplinary research concerning kitchen living in later life and this person-environment interaction forms the focus of this project.

The kitchen provides an essential laboratory for focusing on active ageing within the built environment, addressing how autonomy and independence are promoted or hampered through personal history, current health & well-being, and design and technological intervention.

For those whose remit is to design or adapt the built environment to meet the needs of an ageing population the kitchen alongside the bathroom is seen as an essential space for maintaining personal autonomy in both ‘ordinary’ and ‘supportive’ housing. Yet research shows that within contemporary supportive housing, kitchens in individual living can be challenging spaces with people commenting on problems with kitchen layout, reaching and bending, accessibility, ventilation, trouble with washing and drying clothes and unsatisfactory provision for recycling.

There is a need for a more holistic view of how older people experience their contemporary kitchens, its links to other parts of the home, and the impact of the historical experience of kitchen living for different generations.


The overall aim of this project is to investigate historically and contemporarily the experience of the kitchen for people currently in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s living in a variety of ‘ordinary’ and ‘supportive’ housing in urban and rural locations in England. Cross-generational perspectives on specific life events will contribute a historical understanding to the use of the contemporary kitchen.

The objectives are to:

  • Provide a historical and contemporary understanding of the material, social and psychological environments of kitchen experience guided by life events.
  • Provide a contemporary understanding of the kitchen examining role, function and design utilising visual techniques to understand activities
  • Consider person-environment fit through the juxtaposition of individual health and well-being, kitchen living and the potential for improving the kitchen to meet needs
  • Extend theoretical development in environmental gerontology through focused multidisciplinary research
  • Develop methodological systems for capturing and analysing data that are historical and contemporary; individual and contextual; qualitative and quantitative
  • Develop a resource of stories, experiences and guidelines for older people, OTs and kitchen designers that provide an understanding of user requirements for inclusive kitchen design or adaptation
  • Establish a data bank concerning kitchen living in later life that can be archived


The research involves both secondary analysis of existing data sets and new empirical work.

Secondary Analysis of Data Sets The research will be grounded in secondary analysis of two existing data sets: the EPSRC EQUAL funded: 'Profiling the Housing Stock for Older People: the transition from domesticity to care’ (1998-2002), and the ESRC funded: 'Environment and Identity in Later Life' (1999-2003).

New Empirical Study of Kitchen Living

Purposive Sample

Research will be carried out in England and will aim to include a purposive sample of 48 households (individual older people or couples; 12 from each age-group:  60s, 70s, 80s, 90s) living in the current range of domestic and supportive housing. Participants will live in both urban and rural/semi-rural locations.


Following a careful piloting exercise, each participant has been involved in two interviews within their own home covering (1) Kitchen oral history and (2) The current kitchen.

The first meeting included: short questionnaires to ascertain various background information; in-depth oral history interview focusing on kitchen living across the life course; a review of architectural design layout and features of accommodation; and a reflection on kitchen experiences.

The second meeting included: a review of the likes, dislikes and problems when using the current kitchen using an ergonomic checklist; a photographic record to support this; in-depth interviews focused on current kitchen usage " looking at access from the kitchen to other parts of the home and to the outside, food preparation, ventilation, storage, lighting, visual issues, re-cycling, support for animals. It is also planned that there will be follow-up recording and evaluation of a small number of tasks in the kitchen.

As part of the second interview lighting measurements have been taken to assist in the work of the Thomas Pocklington’s Trust. UK charity providing housing, care and support services for people with sight loss.

Catches placed lower on windows


  • A detailed report presenting an understanding of kitchen life for people as they get older for all those involved in the maintenance, adaptation and design of kitchens as well as policy-makers concerned with addressing housing needs in later life.
  • An on-line design resource incorporating people’s stories and experiences of kitchen life that will aid the development of guidance to facilitate more inclusive kitchens and support transitions in later life.
  • A guide for older people (also of value to health and social care professionals, kitchen designers and others) to help them modify their kitchens as their needs change.
  • Further academic development of the understanding of person-environment fit through multi-disciplinary research reported at conferences and through a wide range of publications.
  • Archiving of oral history data concerning the experience of the kitchen throughout the life course.

Corner cupboard and carousel

Policy implications

The ‘Transitions in Kitchen Living’ (TiKL) project has the potential for a number of policy impacts.

1. Key policy and/or practice implications of the research

Policy and practice implications will focus on developing ways of enabling the experiences of older people living in a wide-range of housing types and with diverse experience of kitchens and kitchen equipment across the life course to influence future design and adaptation of dwellings, and future social policy and practice regarding occupational therapy and social care. These may include:

  • Providing examples of best self-help practice for older people with issues relating to - cooking, dish washing, clothes’ washing, food storage, refrigeration" conducting these activities in safety and comfort
  • Guidance on modifying a person’s kitchen over time to meet changing needs
  • Recommendations on illumination, energy efficiency, handling waste and re-cycling.

2. Key non-academic user groups that will be targeted. Through access to the on-line design resource the following groups will be targeted:

  • Older people living in ‘ordinary’ housing and ‘supportive’ housing
  • Assisted Living proprietors and companies
  • Designers and builders of housing for older people
  • Charities and other organisations representing older people - living in the community, supportive housing and care homes
  • Health and social care professionals
  • Educators and trainers of health and social care professionals
  • Lighting and other equipment manufacturers

3. Assistance needed from the NDA programme in this targeting

  • A high corporate and political profile for the overall NDA programme will facilitate maximisation of the policy and practice impact of TiKL
  • Targeted press releases and promotion of findings to a wide range of experts and non-user groups.
  • Facilitation of contacts with experts and non-academic user groups.
  • Support to develop and produce targeted user-friendly information and recommendations in hard copy and on the web.

Project publications

Publication list

All 35 NDA project publication lists



News & Events

All newsAll events

Other projects like this one

(current tags: Arts and Humanities, Technology)
  • Rural AgeingAn interdisciplinary exploration of the connectivity of older people in rural civic society
  • LandscapesLandscapes of cross-generational engagement

Get our newsletter

I agree to the Terms and Conditions
Find out more about our newsletter