14 Kitchen Safety Tips for Elderly and Disabled

Aging in place kitchen design is an important concept to follow if the elderly or disabled wish to stay at home for as long as possible. Modifying the kitchen with a few simple changes can enhance safety and reduce their risk of hospital admission or institutionalization in a care home.

The most popular features and strategies to make elderly friendly kitchens include:

  1. Install senior friendly faucets

The sink is the most used section of the kitchen as one must frequently clean their hands, wash fruits and vegetables, and do the dishes. For this reason it is important to ensure the kitchen faucet is senior friendly.

The best faucet handles for arthritis and for people with trouble grasping are:

  • Touchless faucets

With touch free faucets, waving the hands in front of a sensor turns the water on or stops the water from flowing. Most of these faucets also have a lever that is used to regulate the water temperature.

  • Touch activated faucets

Touch activated faucets are designed for a light tap with the hand or wrist to turn water flow on and off. Usually a lever is used to control water temperature.

  • Lever faucets

Lever faucets have handles to control both temperature and water flow. These handles can be easy to use for seniors with hand grasping difficulty as they offer a larger surface area to grasp, and can also be turned by using the wrist if needed. In contrast, knob based faucets are more difficult to twist as it may be harder to hold them.

  1. Increase lighting

Reduced lighting can contribute to eye strain and difficulty seeing objects, particularly for a visually impaired individual.

A common kitchen improvement is to increase lighting by using additional light fixtures or stronger bulbs with a higher lumen output. 

A well lit environment can mean better spatial orientation and easier observation of any tripping hazards, which can in turn reduce the risk of falling.

  1. Install non-slip flooring

The kitchen carries particular risk as people usually move around while carrying items in their hands. This can prevent extending the hands and arms up to break a fall and reduce injuries if one were to stumble.

Also, falls tend to occur in the kitchen as a result of how frequently this room is utilized.

Installing non-slip flooring is one way to reduce falls in the kitchen. By improving the floor’s grip through a textured surface, seniors may be more comfortable walking and mobilizing in the area.

  1. Add large open countertops

Energy is consumed every time you need to move around to grab a different utensil or item. So being able to gather all the necessary items in one location can help conserve the body’s energy levels. 

Having a large counter provides the work space to gather items and complete the meal. In turn, this can reduce trips to the fridge, cupboards and cabinets to save the body’s energy that would normally be consumed by walking or mobilizing. These energy savings can then be applied to other demanding activities such as personal hygiene.

  1. Improve kitchen organization

Kitchen organization is important for seniors because it can lead to more effective use of the energy that they have when preparing a meal. 

By saving some of the body’s energy through carefully planned out actions, there will be more energy reserves that can be used for other challenging daily activities such as bathing or dressing.

Ideally, kitchen storage solutions should be setup so similar items are placed together to create a better understanding of where items are located. This can reduce the amount of time spent searching for specific ingredients or utensils.

Another tip includes placing frequently used cutlery and ingredients in an easy to reach and convenient location. Overtime, this will significantly reduce the amount of trips that one makes to further away cabinets, and can conserve energy.

Finally, it may be a good idea to have a storage system or cupboards with transparent panels to allow you to see the contents inside. Being able to quickly glance through the kitchen to find the desired items can greatly reduce one’s search time and makes it easier to gather all the necessary tools and ingredients.

  1. Lower storage shelves

The elderly may have trouble reaching for items stored up high and this can make them more reliant on caregiver support with meal preparation. 

For this reason, it is important to make cupboards and storage highly accessible by placing them at lower heights. This way, seniors that may need to use a wheelchair or rollator walker can more easily reach and grab items from a seated position.

  1. Put microwave on a low countertop

Many kitchen designs place the microwave high up or above the stove. This falls to consider that many elderly individuals have decreased upper body strength and range of motion difficulties at the shoulder that limits their ability to reach up high.

Some dangers of having a microwave located in a high spot can include scalding burns if a spill occurs when lowering a hot bowl of soup.

Ideally, microwaves should be kept lower on a countertop where the food can be put inside more easily or taken out and placed aside on the counter to cool down.

  1. Minimize distractions when cooking

A frequent cause of kitchen fires is an unattended stove top during cooking. 

To reduce the risk of smoke and fires in the kitchen, distractions should be minimized. Running televisions should be turned off and phone conversations should be deferred to another time.

  1. Purchase appliances with auto shut off features

Where applicable, kitchen appliances should be purchased with auto shut off features. 

For instance, an electric hot water kettle is preferred over boiling water in a pot for several reasons:

  • Most kettles turn the heating element off when water begins to boil
  • Boiled water is contained inside the kettle and less prone to spillage

In contrast, it can be easy to forget a boiling pot of water on the stove. Once the water has boiled off, continually heating the metal pot can be dangerous.

  1. Connect the stove to a smart plug

With electric ranges, programmable devices exist that can set lock out times for certain periods of the day such as night time, when cooking would normally not be done. This can be used to prevent a cognitively impaired senior from accessing the appliance and potentially causing a fire when others may be sleeping or not home.

Some electrical lockout devices can send phone notifications and stop the flow of electricity remotely when the stove or oven has been used beyond a normal operating time. This means that stoves that are left running accidentally, can be shut off on their own after a preset amount of time.


Of course, these safety features do not prevent items that are left on an active heating element from burning and catching fire. So precautions must always be taken when cooking a meal.

  1. Clear the floor space for maneuvering

An important feature of a senior friendly kitchen is clear and wide open space to ambulate or mobilize.

For users of gait and mobility aids, they require more room to safely maneuver and turn. By having a clear path, the risk of catching the walker, wheelchair or oneself against other objects is reduced. In turn, this can lower someone’s risk of having falls and injuries.

  1. Have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors must be installed and checked regularly to ensure they are functioning. 


These systems can provide early warning detection that can give an elderly person time to safely evacuate the home in case there is an incident.

  1. Have an accessible fire extinguisher

For small manageable kitchen fires, it may be possible to put them out with a fire extinguisher. For this reason, it is recommended that each kitchen have a small portable and easily accessible extinguisher. 

Usually heating oils are the culprit for kitchen fires, so an extinguisher class designed to handle oil and solvent based fires is recommended for the kitchen.


It is important to check the pressure of the extinguisher regularly to ensure it will operate optimally should it ever need to be used. 

  1. Have a fire evacuation plan

Well rehearsed evacuation plans can save precious seconds, which are often the difference between life and death for quick spreading fires.

Establishing a clear escape path with a usable exit and practicing drills regularly can make someone more prepared to act should a real fire occur.