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Monday July 15, 2024

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Safe Kitchen Tips for Seniors

My parent loves to cook but has had several kitchen-related accidents over the past year. Could you provide some tips for making a kitchen safer and more practical without having to undergo an expensive remodel?

There are several small improvements and simple modifications that can make a big difference in making an older adult’s kitchen safer and easier to use. Depending on each person’s specific needs, here are some kitchen tips to consider.

Lights: If the lighting in the kitchen needs improvement, replace an overhead fixture with a new ceiling light. In addition, add LED lighting under kitchen cabinets to brighten up the countertops.

Floors: If the kitchen has throw rugs, replace them with non-skid floor mats to reduce potential tripping or slipping hazards. Also, consider purchasing gel mats which have cushioning and offer greater comfort when standing for extended periods of time.

Cabinets and drawers: To reduce bending or reaching, organize the kitchen cabinets and drawers so that the items that are most frequently used are within a comfortable reach. You can also make the lower cabinets and pantry easier to access by installing pullout shelves or rotating trays. It is also helpful to install pull-down shelves in the upper cabinets so that your parent does not have to get on a stool to reach things on high shelves. It is also recommended to replace cabinet and drawer knobs with “D” or “C” shaped pull-handles because they are more comfortable to grasp.

Faucet: If the kitchen has a twist-handle kitchen faucet, replace it with an ADA- compliant single handle faucet or with a touch, motion or digital smart faucet. These alternative faucets are easier to operate, especially for those with arthritis or gripping problems. For safety purposes, set the hot water tank at 120 degrees to prevent possible burns.

Microwave and cooktop safety: If the microwave is mounted above the stove, consider moving it to the countertop so your parent does not have to reach over a cooktop to insert or remove food. To prevent home cooking fires, there are automatic stovetop devices that will turn off electric and gas stovetops when left unattended. To guard against microwave fires, there are devices that will automatically shut off the power to the microwave when smoke is detected.

Shopping for Appliances

If you are looking to upgrade appliances, there are a variety of different features to keep in mind.

Refrigerator: French-door refrigerators that open in the middle are great for seniors because it makes it easier to see and reach inside. Pullout adjustable height shelves and a water/ice dispenser on the outside of the door are also very convenient.

Stove or cooktop: Look for a stovetop with controls in the front that are easy to see and reach. Flat surfaced electric induction burners or continuous grates on gas stoves are also great for sliding heavy pots and pans from one burner to the next. Some cooktops also come with automatic shut off burners which will turn off when it detects excessively high temperatures.

Oven: When purchasing an oven, consider a side-swing door model. These models are easier to reach into without having to lean over a hot, swing-down door. Also consider a wall-mounted oven to eliminate bending. Self-cleaning ovens are helpful to eliminate bending over and twisting to clean.

Dishwasher: Consider a drawer-style dishwasher that slides in and out for easier access and, if possible, have it installed on a raised platform 12 to 24 inches above floor level so it can be loaded and unloaded without bending over.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published July 12, 2024
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