Dear Savvy Senior,
What tips can you recommend for making a kitchen senior-friendly? My wife, who loves to cook, has had several kitchen-related accidents over the past year, which is why we would like to modify to make it safer and more practical.
There are a number of simple modifications and inexpensive add-ons that can make a big difference in making your kitchen more age-friendly. Depending on your wife's needs, here are some tips for each aspect of the kitchen.
Floors: If you have kitchen throw rugs, to reduce tripping or slipping, replace them with non-skid floor mats or consider gel mats, which are cushiony and more comfortable to stand on for long periods. GelPro.com and WellnessMats.com offer a nice selection.
Lights: If the lighting in her kitchen is dim, replace the old overhead fixture with a bright new ceiling light, and add under-cabinet task lighting to brighten up her kitchen countertops.
Cabinets and drawers: To reduce bending or reaching, organize your kitchen cabinets and drawers so that the items you most frequently use are within comfortable reach. You can also make your cabinets and pantry easier to access by installing pullout shelves or lazy susans. And D-shaped pull-handles for the cabinets and drawers are also recommended because they're more comfortable for arthritic hands to grasp than knobs.
Faucet: If you have a twist-handle kitchen faucet, replace it with an ADA compliant single handle faucet. They're easier to use, especially for seniors with arthritis or limited hand strength. There are also kitchen faucets on the market today (like the Delta Touch20 faucet and Moen MotionSense) that will turn themselves on and off by simply touching the base or moving your hand over a motion sensor. And, for safety purposes, set your hot water tank at 120 degrees to prevent possible water burns.
Microwave and stove: If your microwave is mounted above the stove, consider moving it to a countertop. This makes it safer and easier to reach. And if you're concerned about your wife remembering to turn the stove off, there are automatic stove shut-off devices you can purchase and install to prevent a fire. See cookstop.com, stoveguardintl.com and pioneeringtech.com for some different options.
If you're looking to upgrade some of your appliances too, here are some different senior-friendly features you should look for when shopping.
Refrigerator and freezer: Side-by-side doors work well for seniors because the frequently used items (refrigerated and frozen) can be placed at mid-shelf range for easy access. Pullout adjustable height shelves and a water/ice dispenser on the outside of door are also very convenient.
Stove or cooktop: Look for one with controls in the front so you won't have to reach over hot burners to turn it off, and make sure the controls are easy to see. Flat surface electric or induction burners, or continuous grates on gas stoves are also great for sliding heavy pots and pans from one burner to the next. And ask about automatic shut off burners.
Oven: Self-cleaning ovens are a plus, and consider a side-swing door model. They're easier to get into because you don't have to lean over a hot swing-down door. Also consider a wall-mounted oven, installed at your wife's preferred height to eliminate bending.
Dishwasher: Consider a dishwasher drawer that slides in and out, and is installed on a 6 to 10-inch raised platform. These require less bending to load and unload.
Washer and dryer: Front-load washers and dryers with pedestals that raise the height 10 to 15 inches are also back-savers and easy to access.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.