The point behind any type of organization throughout the house is to help to reduce the amount of stress in your life. After all, having a place for everything (and everything in it’s place) can give you peace of mind and greatly reduces those last minute “where did I put my keys?” episodes. When it comes to organizing the kitchen, and specifically for seniors, the added bonus is that it makes the area safer.
So, what are our tips on kitchen organization for the elderly? – Decluttering, re-arranging and making sure you have a place for everything are the steps to take to organize a kitchen. For the elderly, additional use of the proper adaptive equipment and placement of needed items to accommodate any physical limitations a senior person may have.
First, let’s just talk about why you should go through this difficult process of clearing out your home. After all, as I mentioned already, it’s not an easy thing to do, for anyone.
- Safety – the number one reason to clear out space is to make the living environment as safe as possible. This is especially true if someone in the home uses a walker or a cane or any other mobility device. It’s just too easy to get those kinds of ambulatory devices caught up on the leg of a chair, a coffee table, etc. If you have to maneuver through parts of your home sideways in order to get from one place to the other – then you really need to clean out the space to make it safer.
- Easier to clean – it’s difficult enough for most seniors to clean their homes as well as they used to. Strength, mobility issues, problems with flexibility, etc. all contribute to this problem. If it’s compounded because of all the stuff that’s in the way – well – that just makes the job so much harder.
- Organization – the old saying by Benjamin Franklin is true – “A place for everything, everything in its place.” Having a sense of organization in the home not only helps with memory problems but it makes life a little less stressful.
- Psychological Benefits – there are many psychological benefits that can come from a decluttered and organized space. Psychology Today reports it’s energizing, reduces anxiety, reduces stress, tensions and more.
Organizing An Elderly Friendly Kitchen
Organization plays a large part in making a kitchen “elderly friendly” but first you need to consider two things…
- The current needs of the senior person(s) using the kitchen
- The possible future needs of the senior person(s) using the kitchen
For example, if you or your senior loved one currently uses a walker then moving commonly used items from the lower cabinets to either countertop level or the upper cabinets is a necessity. But if you believe at some point you or your senior loved one will be using a wheelchair instead, then you must also prepare for placing those items at the countertop level.
There are many ways that you can organize your kitchen so that it’s senior friendly.
I know this can be difficult, especially for seniors but it’s important to remove unnecessary items from the counter tops, kitchen sills, kitchen table, etc. The general idea is to make enough room for cooking and food preparation.
I remember my mother had several decorative items on her small kitchen table. So, if she had to put more than one small plate on the table for dinner – she couldn’t. At least not without having to move things about, knocking things down and then having to reach down to the floor for what she dropped.
It was a struggle to get her to remove those items but after she fell from her chair when she tried to pick up the salt shaker (which she never used anyway) she finally agreed to de-clutter the table. (By the way – she ended up with a bruised elbow from that fall and never quite recovered from it.)
The best advice I can give you on the decluttering process is to start small. Begin by taking one section of one room (a corner, a drawer, etc.). Decide on what you will do with the excess items (donate, give it away, throw it away, etc.) and follow through. For sentimental collections pare it down to one item. Having someone who can keep you grounded and focused throughout the process can help tremendously.
Now that the areas have been de-cluttered, the next step is to move the most commonly used items to the countertop level where it will be easier to reach, use, clean and put away. This is a very important part of making the kitchen more organized, easier and safer for your elderly parent(s).
The physical condition of your senior will dictate where items should be placed. Some tips I can give you are:
- Don’t put EVERYTHING out on the countertop or wherever you decide is a good spot. Keep only the most used items out.
- Sometimes, removing the doors to some kitchen cabinets can make it much easier to reach for items – especially if the person is in a wheelchair or using a walker or cane.
- Replacing unused or underused counter top gadgets and appliances (coffee maker, can opener, toaster oven (if you use a small one), jar opener, etc. are all a great way to clean up the counter tops, free up space and make the kitchen ultra efficient.
I understand that sometimes the kitchen area is very small but all that means is that in order to keep the area cleared and organized, some items may have to be placed elsewhere or you live without them.
- You can modify the home by adding cubby holes into your kitchen walls to accommodate items such as coffee pots, blenders, toasters, etc.
- You can heat up water in a cup in the microwave instead of using a pot on the stove.
- Install under cabinet spice and knife racks which can be placed under the upper cabinets.
- For some seniors you can install pull out drawers at the very bottom of all your lower cabinets which is actually not a drawer but a block which can then be used as a step stool. Not recommended for seniors with balance issues.
- You can replace that old large oven toaster with a newer and smaller version
A Place For Everything
Nothing you do will help you to organize your kitchen more than to have a place for everything. And if you do not have a “place” for it – then you simply shouldn’t have it. I’m talking about things like…
- Plastic garbage bags – using things like plastic bag holders like this one from Amazon will help you to keep these items in order.
- Clearing out and organizing the refrigerator – there are so many wonderful pull out baskets and organizers for the refrigerator these days. Greenco has some great stackable storage organizers that are inexpensive and will make your refrigerator neat and very easy to clean.
- Keeping cans organized – instead of reaching all around your pantry searching for that can of soup – organize your canned items with a stackable can rack like this one from SimpleHouseware. You will love it!
- Hang them up – keep your most used spoons, spatulas, etc. hung up on the wall for easy reach and use. Much better than stumbling around your drawer looking for them. Something like this steel utensil rack may work for you.
Pull Out Drawers
One of my very favorite ways to organize a kitchen (I have them in my own kitchen) is to install pull out drawers in the cabinets. It makes it so much easier to get TO the things in the back of the cabinet and for seniors, much safer.
Here’s a video of my mom-in-law demonstrating her pull out drawers!
She is able to reach for any item in the cabinet with ease and in a very safe manner.
You can find similar pull out drawers that can be installed your own kitchen online (check them out here) or at your local home store (Home Depot, etc).
Companies That Help Seniors To Downsize And Declutter
There are companies that you can hire to help (or completely work on) the decluttering process to help your elderly parents be safer in their homes or if they are downsizing to a smaller home.
For caregivers, this is especially helpful if you live in another state or a good distance from your parents(s) and can’t help them directly yourself.
For seniors who don’t have anyone to help them – this is also an incredible source of help as well.
Some of the these companies are…
- Organize Senior Moves in Delmar, NY
- Organize Senior Moves in Saratoga, NY
- Peace of Mind Transitions in Atlanta, Ga
- Senior On The Move in Denver, CO
- Caring Transitions – locations throughout the USA
Each of these companies (and many others like them) all offer a variety of services. Some help to declutter, others can set up estate sales and auctions and others will help with the relocation process as well.
Search for “companies that help seniors downsize and declutter” in Google to find local organizations that provide these services in your area.