In this article, we’re going to go over cooking safety tips for seniors – techniques and tools that not only make the kitchen safer for elderly adults but also easier.
The kitchen can be a dangerous place for anyone but especially elderly people. There’s much to be said about how to make an elderly friendly kitchen and you can take a look at our article on Kitchen Safety Tips where we delve into many of the details on that topic.
10 Tips On How To Make Cooking Safer And Easier For Seniors
Here are 10 guidelines and tips that we can give you on how to make the process of cooking easier for yourself or a senior loved one.
- Kitchen fire safety is important and you can do that by making sure to have a smoke alarms, a fire extinguisher and if needed, an automatic stove shut off device installed. Also, all households should have a fire escape plan in place.
- Exchange any pots and pans and dishes that are too heavy to manage – especially if you suffer from arthritis in your hands.
- Don’t wear shawls, scarves, clothing with large sleeves or anything that could accidentally come in contact with a hot stove or fire.
- Don’t wear loose jewelry that could get caught on the handle of a pot, etc.
- Keep oven mitts as close to where you would need them as possible. Get two sets if your oven and stove top are far apart.
- Keep your knives sharp so they are easy to use.
- One way to prevent accidents is by turning pot and pan handles in, so that you don’t accidentally bump into them and cause hot food to spill.
- I would recommend an Alexa device in the kitchen so in case anything does happen you can use the Call A Buddy skill.
- Get rid of appliances and tools that are difficult or cumbersome to use.
- If you have trouble standing for long periods of time, you can use a kitchen stool to make cooking easier.
Cooking fires are the primary cause of home fires and home fire injuries. The majority of cooking equipment fires start with the ignition of common household items (i.e., wall coverings, paper or plastic bags, curtains, etc.).Tufts Department of Public Safety
1. Fire Prevention Tips
There are many ways family members can worry about their senior loved ones. One of the most prominent worries is that they might be cooking a meal and there would be a kitchen fire.
You want to make sure to never leave something on the stove unattended, you must keep a close eye on a hot burner and possibly install any one of the automatic shut-off devices available for stoves and ovens.
A kitchen fire can happen in a home with or without warning, and the damage it causes can be devastating. It’s important to be prepared for this type of disaster by knowing what to do when you see smoke coming from an appliance, such as your stovetop or oven.
Whether it’s a grease fire or due to something close to the stove catching fire or some other factor – it’s important to have the right tools to extinguish that fire and of course to be readily and easily able to call the fire department or 911.
You can contact your local fire department to ask if they offer a program where they will come and install smoke detectors in your home – many of them do!
For seniors that have difficulty hearing – it’s recommended to install smoke detectors with flashing strobe lights like this one from First Alert.
There are many other types of smoke detectors available – choose one that can accommodate the person(s) living in the house. There are two factors to consider when choosing a smoke detector for seniors.
1. Will they be able to hear the smoke detector?
2. Will they be able to see a smoke detector with a strobe light?
Also, to keep your senior loved one as safe as possible I would also recommend to purchase a smoke detector with a built in carbon monoxide detector.
But for optimal fire protection – I strongly recommend that you have a fire escape plan in place, even if you live alone.
2. Exchanging Heavy Tools and Appliances For Lighter Ones
I have an elderly friend who has always cooked with cast iron pans and now that she is in her 80’s – it’s very difficult for her to manage those heavy items, but she keeps insisting on using them.
Well, just a few days ago she informed me that she has been experiencing severe pain in her wrists and after a visit to her doctor, she has been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and she may have to have surgery to correct the damage.
Now, if she had just switched over to some lighter weight pots and pans years ago – this may not have had to happen. Of course, we’ll never know for sure but my point is – why cause damage to yourself when you don’t have to?
Further down in this article I give a recommendation on some extremely lightweight pots and pans.
You will also want to look at the weight of crockpots, teakettles, etc. Anything that you can exchange for a smaller and/or lighter version would be of benefit.
3. Avoid Loose Clothing and Jewelry While Cooking
Something that I used to see A LOT as an Occupational Therapist was my home patients demonstrating their cooking to me while they wore a long, loose shawl or sleeves that were dangling from their arms or long chains of beaded costume jewelry. I have to admit – those drove me nuts!
When you are cooking, whether you are cutting food on the counter, stirring a pot on the stove, bending down to pull something out of the oven or simply setting the cooked food on the table – you are most often in motion.
If you have dangling cloth or objects from your neck, your wrists and /or your body – those things can get in the way. They can cause you to drop that casserole dish, they can catch on fire over an open flame on the stove, they can get dipped into that grease on the oven door, etc.
Do yourself a favor and change your clothing when you cook and avoid wearing necklaces and bracelets that could work against you in the kitchen.
4. Keep Things Like Oven Mitts Close By
I personally keep my oven mitts in a drawer by the oven only because I have a small kitchen and I don’t have any wall space to hang those mitts from.
But, I do recommend that it would be safer if you could keep your oven mitts on a hook or something that would make it very easy for you to simply reach over to grab them at all times.
If you want to go the extra mile concerning safety – you can purchase and use fire resistant oven mitts. Although they are not fire proof, if they are left too close to the oven or stove at least the chances of them catching fire is lessened. I still recommend that you keep these away from the oven and stove.
I personally recommend gloved mitts but you can certainly choose your own style, whatever suits you best. Here is a collection of oven mitts for small hands (which would work for many older women).
5. Maintaining Sharp Knives Can Help Prevent You From Cutting Yourself
One of the best ways to injure yourself is by using a dull knife.
…a dull knife means you put more pressure on the knife and the knife is harder to control, meaning it may slip and cut your finger or hand.sCulinarylore.com
My mom-in-law is not in the habit of sharpening her knives on a regular basis and she’s not alone. I know over a dozen friends who are over 70 years old and when I asked each of them if they regularly sharpen their knives they all said “No”.
Many people simply don’t think that this task should be done often but the truth is – it should.
A dull knife can force you to have to push hard and that in turn could cause you to end up cutting yourself. It’s really just a silly little thing that you can do to further protect yourself.
In the list of tools and gadgets below, I recommend a specific knife sharpener that is very easy and safe to use.
6. Alexa Device For Multiple Skills To Make Life Easier and Safer
I know you probably don’t find Alexa devices on many lists regarding cooking safety but there are so many wonderful skills that Alexa offers related to this topic!
Here’s what I think are the most useful for older households:
- Alert A Buddy That You Need Help – all seniors should have an easy way to alert someone that they are in trouble and this can easily happen when you are cooking
- Call 911 – indirectly, Alexa can be used to call 911 in case a fire were to break out while cooking
- Echo Show and Tell – for seniors who are visually impaired, the new Show and Tell skill that is used on the Echo Show is not yet perfect, but I’m sure with time it will be
- Set up multiple timers – it’s so easy to simply say “Alexa, set a pasta timer for 10 minutes.” and then “Alexa, set a broccoli timer for 5 minutes.”
- Call others to dinner – if your spouse tends to hang out in the garage or basement while you are making dinner – you don’t have to leave the kitchen to call him. Simply use Alexa devices throughout your home as an intercom system!
- Keep your shopping list up to date – I use this constantly. If I use my last bit of oatmeal in the morning I can simply say “Alexa, add oatmeal to my list.” and it’s all done!
- Control other appliances – these days you can control your coffee maker, oven, refrigerator, washer and dryer and probably more all with a voice command to Alexa!
7. Turn Pot Handles
The idea of making sure that the handles of pots and pans on the stovetop are turned away from the end of the stoves seems like such a small detail that you may easily overlook it.
But if the pot handle is extended it causes you great risk of bumping into it which could cause the hot food to spill out. Although it may not cause a fire – it could easily burn your skin. And we are all aware that the skin integrity of an older person is much more susceptible to burns.
8. Replacing Older Small Appliances
If you or your senior loved one are still holding on to that crock pot from the 70’s or a toaster oven or microwave the size of some sofa chairs – you may want to begin considering donating those items to a half way house or shelter and replacing them with some newer and lighter ones that are much easier to manage, to store and hopefully to use.
9. Seating In The Kitchen
Not many people think of proper seating as an issue in the kitchen for seniors, but it definitely is! Especially if the cook is an older adult that has difficulty standing and/or staying standing for any period of time.
In these causes I would recommend the Drive Medical Kitchen Stool which is adjustable, has arm rests and is comfortable to sit in.
10. Tools And Gadgets To Make Cooking Easier And Safer For Seniors
Below is a list of the products that we can recommend that may make cooking a bit easier and safer for you and your elderly loved ones.
Senior Friendly Appliances
The Etac Cutting Board
This cutting board makes it safe and easy to cut just about anything. Putting the knife through the slots to cut bread, cucumbers, celery, anything at all is a much safer way to cut food without risking cutting yourself.
Lightweight Pots and Pans
I know that these Texsport Kangaroo pots and pans are really meant for camping but they are SO extremely lightweight – that anyone who has arthritic hands or simply does not have the strength to manage traditional pots and pans can use these.
If these are too light for you – take a look at this set by Cuisinart.
Auto Shut Off Coffee Makers
If you or a senior loved one is using a coffee pot that does not have an auto shut off – I would strongly recommend to replace that unit with a safer model.
It’s just too easy to forget that you left the coffee pot on which could eventually lead to a fire.
The features of this Cuisinart TOA-60 toaster oven that makes it senior friendly are the large knobs that are easy to turn, a quality built product, the wire rack auto ejects and it has multiple cooking functions: air fry, convection, bake broil, warm toast.
Reachers / Grabbers
I’m always a bit hesitant to recommend reachers (aka grabbers or reaching sticks) but I have to agree that for some older adults, they do work well.
The reason I hesitate is because they are not easy to use for everyone. They require some amount of strength and coordination. Also, it can be easy to grab an object like a box or a can and in the midst of carrying it to a countertop using this grabber it can be dropped which then requires more work.
Personally I would recommend to put as many things as possible within easy reach to avoid having to use these grabbers but again – for some seniors they would be a good tool.
Using Alexa’s Echo Show For Your Timers
So, I love the Echo Show as a timer because it not only can be activated with your voice, it can also then SHOW you the amount of time left on the screen. Yes, it’s true you CAN use any of the other Alexa devices as timers but none of them SHOW you the amount of time left.
Mini Baking Sheets
Since my husband passed away, I’ve come to stock my kitchen with smaller baking pans, pots, dishes, etc. It’s much easier to manage, to store, to handle and to cook with.
I bought these baking sheets / trays that you see above and I use them most every day. They are perfect for a 1 or 2 person household, are extremely lightweight and take up very little storage space. Give them a try!
Pot Handle Covers
If you or your senior loved one has pots and pans with bare handles (no covering on them) – you want to think about how to protect yourself from a possible burn. These silicone handle covers are that solution!
Avoid Overspills From Pots
These spill stoppers have been around a very long time and they really work! Use them as a lid to your pot of boiling water and you won’t ever have to work about water boiling over onto your stovetop, counter, floor, etc.
The one recommendation I would make is to have a plate or platter or something on your countertop next to your stove so that when you do remove this spill stopper from the pot you have a place to put it and it won’t get the countertop wet.
Easy and Safe Knife Sharpener
Working with dull knives can be a safety hazard. The reason is that “A dull blade requires more pressure to cut, increasing the chance that the knife will slip with great force behind it.” – Urmc.Rochester.Edu
So, keeping your knifes sharp should be part of your routine and this little tool makes it very easy to do!
Prevent Arm Burns From Your Oven
There are several different kinds of oven rack guards, these pictured here are made out of the same material that firefighters wear but note that there are also many others made out of silicone which you may prefer – you can see them here. My point is, there are multiple options of oven rack guards available.
There are many more kitchen products listed in our article on Helpful Kitchen Gadgets For Seniors. That list includes…
- Automatic Jar Opener (Hands Free)
- Extra Large Impaired Vision Clock
- Easy Open Canister Set
- Manual Food Chopper
- Open Ring Pull Can Opener
- Folding Microwave Tray
- magicOpener EXTREME
- Cut Resistant Gloves
- Package Opener And Cutting Tool
- Baggy Racks (Sandwich Bag Racks)
- Spill Stopper Lid Cover
- Erasable Food Labels (Starter Kit)
- Berry Breeze Refrigerator Deodorizer and Food Life Extender
You can certainly come up with many other gadgets and tips for your own kitchen and lifestyle and we would love to hear what those are! Feel free to email us with your suggestions and we just may add them to our website!
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that people over the age of 65 have a 2.7 times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire than the general population.ComfortKeepers.com