Challenges like muscle weakness, limited mobility and memory decline can turn the kitchen into a hazard zone for many seniors. Some of the latest safety gadgets and appliances on the market can help reduce the risk of injury, to make cooking (and eating!) easier.
Get a grip. People with arthritis pain or weak muscles in their hands and arms face a battle at mealtime just to pry the lid off the food they want to eat. They might fare better armed with either a set of manual bottle and jar openers-- those plastic or rubber cap covers that give your hand a stronger grip when you twist—or the type that mounts underneath a cabinet and provides leverage when you wedge in the lid. For those who still need a more powerful assist, there are automatic jar and can openers that operate with the press of a button—no twisting required.
A new product that captured a lot of attention at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show is the Gyenno spoon and fork set. Ideal for people with Parkinson's Disease and other ailments affecting the motor system, its sensors and motors automatically detect and compensate for hand tremors so that the utensil remains stable.
Block cuts and burns. Cut-resistant gloves can help prevent meal preparation from being interrupted by a trip to the ER. The composition and weight of their materials are the keys to how these gloves work. Spectra® fiber, a high-performance material used to make bullet-proof vests, is a common choice, although composites of fiberglass, stainless steel and other materials can also be used.
Cool-touch toasters, electric griddles and microwave bowls provide a protective shield against burns. The Gyenno cup, also featured at CES 2016, comes with a LCD screen that lets users known when it's too hot to handle, along with displaying the date, time, weather and reminders about healthy drinking.
Avoid fires. Who hasn't had a so-called “senior moment" like forgetting to turn the burner off, singeing a towel or melting a plastic utensil that touches the heat? For an aging person with cognitive impairment or slow movement, that kind of mishap can lead to a serious fire.
Products like induction cooktops and automatic stove shutoffs can lower the risk of kitchen fires. An induction cooktop employs an electromagnetic field that heats the pan while the cooktop stays cool. It's a high-end purchase--$1,400 and up for a range and $1,200-plus for a stand-alone cooktop—so it's something you'd most likely consider if you're already planning to replace a stove. These appliances also require special induction-capable pots and pans.
For less than $200, you can purchase a device that will turn off the stove after a set time has elapsed if its sensor detects no movement to indicate someone is tending the stove.
A kitchen equipped with the right safety technology lets seniors keep their independence for as long as possible, while their family caregivers rest a little easier.
For more tips on aging in place, read our post, Is Your Home Age in Place Ready?