As our age increases, we experience changes in our health that may require us to adjust our daily routines and this is the right time to ensure kitchen safety for seniors. Aging and mobility issues are some of the most common concerns for seniors, who are often at risk of falling because of poor posture or balance.
When you think of elderly people, you probably imagine a frail, old lady who is unable to do many things on her own. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Elders are more likely to be cooking than sitting in a rocking chair. They take part in nearly every household activity and often have friends and family over for parties and get-togethers.
With so many new devices, gadgets, and appliances entering the market, it is easy to forget that many older people may still be using outdated or unsafe kitchen equipment. Whether you’re looking to add more cooking, or just need a quick reminder of how to handle common kitchen safety hazards, this list of tips on kitchen safety for seniors is a great place to start.
Why is it important to keep a kitchen clean for seniors?
There are many benefits of keeping a kitchen clean for seniors. For one, it can help them stay healthy and independent. Cleanliness is also associated with good mental health, which can be beneficial for seniors who may experience feelings of loneliness or depression.
Additionally, keeping a kitchen clean can prevent accidents. If there is dirt, food particles, or other debris on the floor, it can be difficult for seniors to navigate safely. In addition, dirty kitchens are often breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus, which can cause health problems such as asthma and food poisoning. Also, this will help you in organizing your kitchen.
Keeping a kitchen clean is also good for safety. When you have an old appliance, utensil, or furniture that isn’t in good working order and tips over on a regular basis, it can create dangerous situations when other people are in the kitchen.
How can I make my kitchen safe as a senior?
There are a few things that you can do to make your kitchen safe as a senior.
First, install safety rails around the edge of the countertops and in the corners of the room. This will help you stay safe while cooking and reduce the risk of falls.
Second, invest in a food scale so that you can accurately measure portions and avoid eating too much unhealthy food.
Third, get a chef’s knife that is easy to grip and has a sharp blade. This will help you chop vegetables and fruits safely without injuring your hands.
Fourth, purchase an oven mitt or oven glove to protect your hands when cooking in the oven.
Finally, always use caution when handling hot pots and pans, especially if you have arthritis or other joint problems.
This list of kitchen safety tips for seniors is a great starting point.
What goes into an elderly-friendly Kitchen?
1. Fire Prevention :
Make sure that all of your kitchen equipment is in working in order and have the right amount of staff to use it. Keep the space clear of clutter and avoid putting items on the countertop where they can fall and cause a fire.
Make sure that you are always aware of the stove or oven temperature because a fire can easily start in those places. The stove/burner should be kept clean at all times and free of grease so that there is less risk for arcing or kitchen fires. Ensure that your kitchen appliance/counter appliances have safety features such as detecting an overload situation and an automatic shut-off feature to protect against unnecessary fires.
Fire extinguishers – Make sure every home contains one on each floor with training in the use of fire extinguishers.
Fire safety training – Get tips on safety in your home and kitchen from licensed professionals who can help prevent fires or achieve a safe evacuation if one should occur.
2. In And Near The Kitchen, Senior Friendly Smoke Alarms:
There are several smoke alarms that you can install for kitchen safety for seniors. These include:
Smoke detectors should be installed outside of the home and inside of the house to help prevent a fire from spreading. There are several smoke detectors that have an alert feature to alert adults, such as an intercom in or near the kitchen. If a home fire occurs in the kitchen, there are several devices that will alert family members to be safe.
Older adults took up 15% of the US population in 2015, but they accounted for 40% of all fire deaths. In comparison to the total population, there was 2.7 times larger risk of drowning in a fire. In comparison to the whole population, people age 85 and over were 3.8 times more prone to die in a fire.
It’s recommended to keep one smoke detector on each level of your home, as well as one in each bedroom and another outside of every sleeping area (i.e. the hallway to the bedrooms).
In addition, if you have an Alexa device in the home, you can use the Alexa Guard skill to recognize the sound of an alarm (fire or burglar), and it can even detect the shattering glass (in case someone decides to break into the home through a window).
If Alexa Guard recognizes any of these sounds, it will send you a 10-second clip of the sound is detected, which is a great option for adult children who need to have an eye on their parents’ homes.
Another safety device is an automatic fire extinguisher with multiple sensors on it so when they sense smoke or heat and can provide fresh foam to fight fires before the first responders arrive at your home if you have one of these installed in your kitchen.
3. Fire Extinguisher that all seniors can use easily:
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that the easiest fire extinguisher to use is a dry chemical extinguisher.
In order for an older adult to be able to use a fire extinguisher, there must be a little modification to the handle. The older adult should sit in front of the unit with their shoulder against the fire extinguisher and grasp it by holding it either above or below its base. Then, press down somewhat hard but not too much push from behind into his or her body so when they release that pressure out will go automatically extinguishing your home fire and safety as long as proper safety devices are installed in spaces where you can’t reach.
Any adult can teach a senior how to use the safety devices in their home or favorite place of relative care and safety, without a dent to your own budget either!
4. Automatic Shut-Off Devices And Stove Alarms:
A stovetop or oven should be equipped with an automatic shut-off device. This can be a simple switch that turns the burner off when the pan is removed, or it can be a more sophisticated electronic device that shuts down the stove when there is no heat source in the oven.
A similar safety device is the smoke detector or fire alarm in an older adult’s kitchen that will shut off appliances, light switches, and others when they sense smoke or heat and automatically start all burners up again just like your home would be if there was a fire which will help a lot in kitchen safety for seniors. “Beware of Stairs” safety devices are also installed on much other equipment inside which should also help to prevent fires as well including refrigerators and stovetops. Of course, good safety devices are ever in place for your older adult to practice safety with just as they would in their home!
Read here for bathroom safety tips for seniors
5. Kitchen Modifications For The Seniors:
My friend Pat (who is 90 years old) has installed a non-slip mat in her kitchen. It’s been there for years and is still holding up well.
When she was a little girl, she had an electric stove, rather than a gas stove or electric burner, and the kitchen floor was tiled. Her mom had those safety mats installed then with no thoughts of needing to use them in her home (or anyone else’s for that matter!).
She is also using one of the new-fangled oven sensors on her appliance instead of turning it off when she leaves. These work very well if your older adult has left utensils baking in their pans too long in an unattended kitchen. She is also using safety mats on the kitchen countertops, too. The reason? She needs to extinguish appliance-light fires without the danger of putting oily kitchen utensils in water or causing grease spills and cleaning up after them!
And one more thing she promises never to forget – when her food recipes have a dangerous ingredient such as nuts, chemicals, etc. you do not allow her near your stovetop during preparation!! ( Incidentally, my mother always does this too when she prepares food for older adult friends!)
6. Make daily meal preparation part of the care agreement:
When you are dealing with aging elder adults, it’s important to provide them peace of mind and safety when they start meal preparation at home on their own each day instead of relying on others to do those things for them. Start off by making sure they know what utensils go where or which appliance is the stove burner so that help can be summoned if needed. Then make meal preparation part of the care agreement so that safety is stressed as much as possible in daily home life and elderly people don’t feel they are being babied!
We recommend families start by making a list of all utensils, appliances, where food stores different items such as mixing bowls (pie or cookie dough), measuring cups, etc. with their proper placement on kitchen countertops and any clothes stored in dryers – remove before using to the elderly home. Consider creating a safety checklist for appliance-light fires and light bulbs that go on kitchen countertops when utensils, foodstuffs, and cleaning supplies have been prepared/used.
Make sure everyone copies this list with their caretaker’s signature, as well as these, are important steps! We also recommend placing your safety tips around kitchen appliances or near exits so that they will be easily noticed. This can play a good role in kitchen safety for seniors.
7. De-clutter Kitchen Countertops, Cabinets, Refrigerator, and Pantry:
I realize that this can be difficult for some people, especially retirees, but it’s also important to separate unnecessary items from the countertops, window sills, kitchen tables, and other areas. The general goal remains to create ample space for cooking and food preparation.
Don’t neglect to de-clutter the refrigerator and pantry as well. These are frequently overlooked areas, but they can also lead to fall hazards.
You can eliminate hazards by eliminating clutter. There are two types of clutter – “cabinet” and “countertop” clutter. The cabinet items which come in contact with food are the utensils, flour, sugar containers, measuring cups, and spoons.
They should be easy to find without having to sort through kitchen countertops or appliances for them. Many home care agencies provide cabinets that have radio frequency identification systems installed which automatically open or close as you approach them so there is no fumbling around on kitchen counters looking for items like salt containers then sprinkling tables at once when they are close by.
Consider the kitchen countertop clutter which includes the food preparation utensils, measuring cups, and spoons for cookies dough – make sure you move them so they are in safe reach to pour out of bowl or cup into the baking dish without reaching across a hot stovetop! Cooking utensil safety tips also include ensuring they are dry before cleaning or storing. Most senior care facilities will provide easy access bins/cabinets that safety utensils can be stored in and cleaned often.
Consider the clutter of kitchen appliances that are within an easy reaching distance of home care employees. Fridge shelves should be no more than a foot above the countertops with lower food containers placed directly on the dish shelf, instead of an appliance for safety reasons! In order to clean the refrigerator bottom safely, cabinets or other appliance devices can be used to provide enough reach without letting objects fall off-chute.
Kitchen countertops also often have cookbooks and recipe cards in easy reach for home care employees to share with older persons by thusly saving kitchen countertop clutter space. And, consider kitchen utensil safety tips that can help reduce the risk of burned fingers or arms when reaching across hot stoves and ovens. Those thorough sinks! When climbing over pots, protect appliance tops (taps) so food does not go into them.
8. Good Lighting Throughout The Kitchen:
Lighting is one of the most important things to consider when decorating a kitchen and ensuring kitchen safety for seniors. Make sure that you have plenty of lighting throughout the entire kitchen, especially in dark corners.
If there are not enough light fixtures or if they are too far away from the kitchen countertops, installing under-cabinet lighting may be a helpful safety utensil tip.
If you don’t have any extra light bulbs (plain old “regular” light bulb sizes!), consider the safe use of other forms of illumination that can provide adequate kitchen safety for senior care facility employees and seniors. For example, LED work lights are smaller in size but give off less heat than incandescent bulbs.
9. Anti Slip Flooring In The Kitchen:
Slip-resistant flooring is a must in the kitchen. The majority of slip and fall accidents happen when someone walks on slippery floors.
I would recommend installing anti-slip vinyl tiles or rubber flooring, especially if your elderly loved one has balance problems, is a senior care facility employee, or home care client who struggles with falling down.
Safeguard kitchen countertops by installing safety mats in high-traffic areas to keep people from slipping on them. Tistory handles (remember the toilet handle) that are easy for older people to grasp and open utensil drawers before they fall off-chute while standing across hot stoves and ovens are also good options.
10. Kitchen Chairs For Seniors:
One of the most important things in any kitchen is the chair that you use. There are so many different styles and types of chairs available today – it’s hard to decide which one will work best for your aging parent.
But before you pick one, ask yourself the following question:
Did your aging love one have good posture in their younger years?
It’s important that they keep up this quality when using a kitchen chair. For example, if you were easy to stand upright while cooking 55 years ago but let it slip after reaching 70 or 80, there’s probably no point in wasting money on an expensive electric countertop stove because most older home care clients can manage so.
Make sure all stovetop and oven knobs, handles, and components are turned off prior to any appliance being opened for kitchen safety for seniors. Some older adults manage easily with a simple switch that turns the appliance on or off when you pull it about 2 inches out of place from its burner support bar, but others may get confused. To avoid this confusion check your older adult’s kitchen equipment before you disturb any appliances or move their kitchen devices to the safety of their bedrooms or bathrooms.
Make sure all kitchen appliances and light switches are turned off beforehand as well. Having lights on in the home when an older adult is alone can be very demeaning, potentially alerting a caretaker that they need help! Caretakers should also use good judgment if any type of appliance is going to remain left running even after its caregiver goes out of sight.
One way to avoid kitchen safety hazards is to hide appliance knobs in the easy-access of “buttons” — so that when the caregiver moves a button, appliances turn on without fail. Here are some food service utensils you should consider: Kingfisher and Silver Palate’s “move lever” meat packages (including roasts), Easy Eats deli trays, sometimes with foldable dipping sauces, and plastic straws.
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