With today’s open-floor-plan designs, kitchens are the hub and heartbeat of most homes. But to accommodate seniors with decreased vision, mobility challenges and hearing loss, food prep and cooking, safety and usability should be a priority when making modifications, upgrading appliances and purchasing new tools.
Burns, falls and food-borne illness are leading causes of kitchen injuries in older adults, and each year three million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
If you want to make the kitchen a safer environment for your loved one, consider many of the accessories and tools here that are designed with safety in mind.
The heat is on
Cooking is such a routine activity it’s easy to forget that high temperatures can start a fire.
In fact, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, cooking is a leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries and the second leading cause of home fire deaths.
Even if we smell food cooking, it’s still easy to forget something is on the stove. iGuardStove uses motion-sensing technology that intelligently monitors activity. When it “sees” you have left the kitchen, a programmed timer will shut the stove off. Once the iGuardStove senses you have returned to the kitchen, the stove resumes cooking.
Integrated with smoke alarms, FireAvert installs in less then 10 minutes and requires no tools or professional skill. The device automatically cuts power to the stove when the smoke alarm sounds from food left unattended.
Recycle unsafe cotton mitts and flat pot holders. Avoid chance of a burn with these FDA-approved, rip-resistant oven gloves, offering heat protection up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Featuring extra long cuffs, they pull double duty for the grill and are 100% waterproof, dishwasher safe and BPA-free.
Even with hand-protecting mitts, who among us hasn’t suffered a burn when removing hot items from the oven? These lab-tested food-grade (BPA- and PFOA-free) silicone rack guards by LeeYean securely attach to the edge of any size oven rack and are slip-resistant. Toss in dishwasher for easy cleanup.
Tools to help with vision or memory loss
Kitchen accidents often occur because of forgetfulness. Suggest your loved ones use a separate countertop timer: The Lavatool timer features big buttons and a large digital display, and a loud alarm is easily heard from other rooms. An integrated magnet and kickstand allow you to place it anywhere in your kitchen.
Standard kitchen measuring tools are hard to read. Borrowing design from large print books, this Chef Craft 10-piece set of measuring cups and spoons features easy-to-read numbers.
For cookbooks, labels and other fine print, this small but mighty colorful magnifying glass from Joie sticks to the fridge for convenience.
Many seniors struggle with knowing when to throw out leftover food. To help solve this problem, use Jokari’s reusable food label kit to mark food content and date—most leftovers should be eaten within three to four days. Kit includes two erasers, two markers and 140 multi-color laminated labels that are safe for the refrigerator, freezer, microwave and dishwasher, and designed for both plastic and glass containers.
Tools that help with mobility
If you cook most meals at home, you’re standing on your feet for long periods. So, take a tip from professional restaurant kitchens and use gel mats to reduce the pressure on legs, feet, knees and back. The Kangaroo anti-fatigue mat comes in a variety of sizes and styles to match your decor. Place in front of the sink and frequently used work spaces.
Pull-out racks and organizers
Bending and stretching are more dangerous for seniors, who tend to lose balance more easily, so keep frequently used items accessible. These Knape & Vogt racks for lower cabinets are great for organizing pots and pans, baking sheets, spices and pantry items. The double-tiered, wire-frame construction with ball bearing mounts features adjustable heights. And for upper cabinets, the Rev-A-Shelf pull down unit puts pantry items within easy reach, locking into place when extended.
A top seller on Amazon, the Vive grabber, is an extendable rod with grippers that retrieves hard-to-reach items—an invaluable tool perfect for seniors with back or neck issues or arthritis, and those confined to wheelchairs.
Seniors with balance problems and pain in joints and muscles may struggle to perform standing work in the kitchen. The Original Independence Chair™ Manufactured By VELA is a versatile and adjustable mobility chair that makes it easy to propel yourself around comfortably, locking in place when needed.
Small tools and appliances that help with grip and dexterity
Even simple movements like opening cabinets and doors can be challenging for those with diminished strength. The Aidapt Universal Knob Turner is a grip-assist device featuring an ergonomically shaped handle and flexible nodules that fit door pulls, knobs and dials on a range of appliances.
Knives, graters, scissors and other sharp items can cause mild to severe injuries, and nonergonomic designs can contribute to hand and wrist fatigue. The Checkered Chef Mezzaluna Chopper with comfort grip handle is a rocker knife that makes quick work chopping piles of delicate fresh herbs or sturdy vegetables like cabbage while reducing repetitive motion stress.
The Fullstar vegetable chopper with built-in container slices, dices, chops and cuts fruit and vegetables safely and easily in half the time of a knife and cutting board. Design features four interchangeable blades, a soft-grip handle and non-skid base for stability.
And no kitchen is complete without a good pair of kitchen shears. These KitchenAid scissors feature soft-grip finger rings.
Holding a mixing bowl in one hand with a mixer in the other is a tricky job no matter your age, but for someone with less hand strength, using tools and mixing bowls simultaneously is difficult. This 3-Piece Set of stainless steel mixing bowls from OXO Good Grips includes multiple sizes. Stainless steel interiors won’t retain odors or colors, while plastic exteriors shield hands from extreme heat. The non-skid bottoms stabilize bowls while mixing.
Pans and countertop appliances that make chef duty a snap
Seniors living on their own or preparing to downsize don’t need family-sized pots and pans for daily use. Large stock pots filled with boiling liquid or food can be too heavy to safely lift, and smaller cookware is more practical when cooking for one or two.
This affordably priced, stackable, nonstick ceramic 14-piece set by NutriChef has received praise from both customers and senior experts. Designed for use on gas, electric, ceramic and induction cooktops, the silicone handles provide comfort and safety. And for seniors looking to up their foodie game, de Buyer carbon steel pans are lightweight and offer superior, naturally nonstick surfaces for easy cleanup.
For easier and safer meal prep, consider countertop ovens. The Tovala Smart Oven is WiFi connected and uses Scan-to-Cook technology. Order their meal delivery plans (prices start at $9.99 per serving), scan more than 850 grocery items, or cook your own food. It’s programmed to use heat and steam and shuts off when the meal is cooked.