9 Kitchen Safety Tips for the Elderly

  1. Minimize distractions when cooking

One great method of improving senior safety within the kitchen is by minimizing distractions such as a running television and phone calls. 

This will help keep one’s undivided attention on the stove top heating elements and ensuring one’s meal does not get overcooked or burn. 

Kitchen fires can occur quickly and unattended heating elements used for cooking can quickly lead to smoke or a fire.

  1. Declutter the kitchen and remove unused items

Having an organized and clean working space in the kitchen allows you to have ample room for commonly used cooking utensils and ensures that ingredients are easily accessible. 

More importantly, having a clear space allows one to take note of whether they have all the necessary tools and ingredients to prepare the desired meal. 

In turn, this helps minimize trips to cupboards, fridge or pantry for any items that may have been forgotten. 

For those that have lower energy levels and stamina related to a heart or lung condition, cancer or chronic pain, limiting walking to a few purposeful trips can be a valuable energy conservation strategy. 

Decluttering can essentially help someone plan their actions to ensure that the energy levels they do have are used most effectively.

  1. Ensure the kitchen has ample lighting

Ensuring one has proper lighting within the kitchen can be a great way to improve one’s ability to follow recipes and read ingredient labels.

More importantly, good lighting allows someone the ability to quickly scan the environment to locate utensils and required material while cooking. 

As well, good lighting can illuminate pathways in and around the kitchen to minimize tripping on difficult to see objects or furniture.

Having good lighting is especially important when preparing meals in the late evening after the sun has set, in kitchens with few windows and for seniors with visual impairments such as macular degeneration.

  1. Verify that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order

Any device that senses smoke or carbon monoxide can be a good indicator of a fire or potential leak. 

These alarms can alert people in the surrounding area with audible and sometimes a visual warning when a potentially dangerous situation has been detected.

This early warning system can grant a senior the precious time needed to safely exit their home and seek further assistance either from emergency services or from a caretaker. 

  1. Use a kitchen safety sign

Some elderly individuals experience memory lapses or episodes of forgetfulness. These issues can pose a safety hazard in the kitchen, but they can be counteracted with the use of written cues and visual aids for some people.

As an example, a list that contains family and emergency contact numbers can be a helpful aid that allows a senior to quickly call for assistance should a dangerous situation occur.

Other types of visual aids can be posted near the kitchen’s exit to remind the elderly to check if they have turned off all the stove top heating elements, oven and other electrical devices prior to leaving the kitchen. 

These instructions act as a cue to help someone remember the safety considerations they need to follow when cooking or leaving their kitchen.

  1. Have a readily available fire extinguisher and fire plan

Kitchen fires often occur with improper use and monitoring of the range or other appliances. Grease and cooking oil are common contributors to kitchen fires and it is important to have the necessary tools to extinguish small manageable fires.

It is recommended that every home have an accessible fire extinguisher that is suited for kitchen fires which often involve oils and solvents. 

The extinguisher must be out of its packaging and ready to use at a moment’s notice should a situation arise. It is also important to regularly check household fire extinguishers to ensure they still have the necessary pressure to function optimally.

More importantly, basic fire safety should be taught to ensure the elderly know how to use the fire prevention tools and understand their emergency exit strategy. Emergency drills and fire plans should be reviewed on a regular basis to reinforce any teaching and ensure that nothing has been forgotten since any earlier training session. 

  1. Follow a recipe or list of instructions to stay on track

By using a recipe or following instructions, one is less likely to miss an important step during meal prep. These instructions can also be used as a checklist to ensure that all the necessary ingredients and cooking utensils are readily available.  

Essentially, a recipe helps to keep someone on track when preparing food and minimizes common cooking errors such as setting the temperature too high, or forgetting something in the oven. In turn this can minimize the risk of having incidents of smoke and fire.

  1. Disconnect the stove or range if needed

Should one not have the cognitive ability to understand how to cook safely, then it may be needed to disconnect the stove or remove other potentially dangerous kitchen appliances.

If a senior can be taught, they may need to transition to heating frozen or ready made meals in the microwave and use appliances such as kettles with auto shut off features. 

Alternatively, making simple meals with little prep work such as sandwiches with cold cuts can be a safe option.

  1. Initiate meal delivery services

There are many senior meal delivery services that offer frozen meals that may be warmed up in the microwave, and some even offer delivered hot meals.

Alternatively, one may skip the need to prepare meals by ordering from the many local restaurants and catering companies that offer take out or prepackaged meal kits. 

With the rapid growth of UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub and other food delivery services, one is able to have a greater variety of choices with their meals and portions. Another advantage is that one can order food at operating hours typically beyond those of traditional senior meal delivery services.

Kitchen safety assessments by a home care professional

For seniors that may be in the early stages of dementia, a kitchen assessment by a trained occupational therapist may be needed to determine if they have the cognitive capacity to prepare a meal safely. A therapist can help identify any cause for concern and offer valuable recommendations that may reduce one’s risk of having a fire in the kitchen.

Furthermore an occupational therapist can provide education regarding assistive kitchen aids that can be used to make meal planning easier and more safe. Within their assessment of potential kitchen aids, they may be able to identify ways to support individuals with memory deficits or physical impairments.

For example, survivors of stroke often have hemiparesis (weakness of one side) or hemiplegia (paralysis of one side) that affects their ability to use one of their arms or hands to participate in meal prep. A therapist can help identify the various one handed tools that could be used to make them more independent with meal preparation and less reliant on a caregiver.


If there is any concern regarding an elderly individual’s safety within the kitchen, it is important to speak to one’s family doctor as they may be able to arrange home care services to address any concerns.