3 Kitchen Safety Tips and Resources for Seniors

women putting her dishes away in her cabinets

Your kitchen is a gathering place for friends and family — a place where memories are homemade and seasoned with love. It’s also one of the rooms in the house that sends thousands of people to the emergency room every year.

From home fires started by cooking equipment to foodborne illness caused by bacteria living on your kitchen faucet to cuts made by dull knives, injuries the kitchen can be a dangerous place for anyone.

For aging adults, kitchen safety is even more important. Why?

As you grow older, your immune system doesn’t work the same as it did when you were, say, a 30-year-old. It becomes slower to respond, which increases your risk of getting sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 76 million cases of food-borne illness occur each year. Due to a natural decrease in your immune system, you can succumb to food poisoning more easily and have a harder time fighting it off if you do.

Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging, and some medications affect cognition. Maybe you’ve noticed that you don't remember information as well as you once did or you lose things like your glasses. The primary cause of kitchen fires? Leaving food unattended while cooking.

The natural aging process also often places older adults at an increased risk of having a fall. Chronic health conditions, poor vision or muscle weakness, or illnesses can all affect balance. So if you’re trying to reach the flour on the top shelf of the pantry, bending over to get a cookie sheet out from a low cabinet, or carrying dinner plates from the kitchen to the dining room, you can easily suffer a fall injury.

Senior nutrition is incredibly important. Eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk for many conditions associated with aging, including anemia, confusion, infections, hip fractures, hypotension, and wounds. You want your kitchen to be a safe gathering place where you can make food that supports your health, helps to improve how you feel, and encourages a sense of well-being.

When was the last time you looked for potential hazards in your kitchen, though? Here are three kitchen safety tips and resources for seniors that can help keep your kitchen a safe and usable place.

1. Kitchen Cleanliness Helps Prevent Food-borne Illness

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends following four easy steps to be food safe:

  1. Clean
    Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food; after using the bathroom; after handling pets; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and after handling uncooked eggs or raw meat, poultry, or fish and their juices.
  2. Separate
    Don’t cross-contaminate. Thoroughly wash – with hot, soapy water – all surfaces that come in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, and eggs before moving on to the next step in food preparation. Don’t use the same platter and utensils that held the raw product to serve the cooked product.
  3. Cook
    Cook food to proper temperatures. Use a food thermometer because you can’t tell food is cooked safely by how it looks.
  4. Chill
    Refrigerate food promptly. Bacteria spread fastest at temperatures between 40 ºF and 140 ºF, so chilling food properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Chill leftovers and takeout foods within two hours.

2. Fall-proofing Your Kitchen Leads to Added Convenience and Comfort

Fall-proofing your kitchen won’t only reduce the likelihood of falls, but it will also make your kitchen more comfortable to cook in.

For example, when you clean up cluttered areas, it’s easier to find what you’re looking for — and harder to trip. Install bright lighting and only use the easy-to-reach cabinets.

Store heavy objects at waist level and install Lazy Susans in corner cabinets and on counters, it’s easier to reach things — and harder to be knocked off balance.

3. Cook with Caution to Prevent Fires

The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking, so always stay in the kitchen while you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. And if you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

If the fire isn’t caused by unattended cooking, the next likely culprit is a hot kitchen stovetop. Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.

 Senior nutrition is just as important as kitchen safety. For more resources for seniors about the importance of nutrition for seniors and healthy eating tips for older adults, download our eBook Nutritious Delicious.

Senior Nutrition Guide Nutritious Delicious