There’s no denying that the kitchen is truly the heart of the home. For many of us, we are filled with memories of sitting around the table with family and friends, catching up and enjoying a good meal. And those are the experiences we want to continue on for our entire lives.
Unfortunately, the kitchen can become more of a nerve-wracking place as we get older. It can be the source of all kinds of accidents, such as fires, falls, or other injuries. In 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stated people 65+ are 2.5 times more likely to die in a kitchen fire than the general population. Because of the risks, it leaves some seniors wanting to avoid the kitchen at all costs.
However, for older adults, the kitchen doesn’t have to be a dangerous or scary place. Instead, we just need to educate ourselves and learn how to reduce the risk of common kitchen accidents that could end in disaster.
Tips for Fire Prevention in the Kitchen
The National Fire Protection Association has reported that a whopping 41% of home fires begin in the kitchen. Not only that, but those kitchen fires have been attributed to 15% of overall home fire deaths and 36% of home fire injuries. Those statistics are enough to make anyone a little nervous in the kitchen, but we can’t avoid cooking altogether. Instead, we just need to learn how to take the proper precautions to prevent kitchen mishaps.
The first thing we all need to keep in mind is that we should never leave food unattended when it’s cooking. This is the primary cause of kitchen fires and no one wants to fall victim to it. If you have anything frying, grilling, broiling, simmering, baking, or anything of the sort… Do not leave your house. Stay near the kitchen so you can keep an eye on your food in case something happens.
It’s also important that you keep anything that could catch fire away from your stove top. This includes oven mitts, wooden utensils, and food packaging. It’s also smart to avoid loose clothing while cooking so you don’t accidentally catch your clothes on fire while cooking that delicious stew.
You can also invest in cooking devices that have automatic shut-offs (such as electric tea kettles). This way, if you forget to turn something off, it will shut down for you. Of course, it’s still important to check your devices regularly and ensure they are turned off when not in use. However, the automatic shut-off can provide some peace of mind.
Avoiding Kitchen Falls
Another common kitchen accident for seniors is falling. In some cases, these types of spills are easily preventable, but sometimes they aren’t. We can still do our part to minimize the risk though so seniors can cook safer right at home. After all, we should be able to feel safe and comfortable within our kitchens!
The first thing to do is make sure you keep your kitchen tidy and free of clutter. Things on the floor are sure to cause accidental trips and falls at some point, which can lead to serious injury. Take a couple minutes at the end of every day to clean the kitchen and put things away where they belong. If your mobility is limited, you can use a grabber tool to help you pick up things that have fallen down. Or, have a family member, friend or neighbor come by to check that everything is properly put away.
Another important tip is to avoid using those out-of-reach cabinets. While this can be frustrating if you have limited space already, it’s simply not worth the risk to get on a step stool to reach something that’s on a top shelf. Loss of balance can increase the older we get. Get all of your most-used ingredients and utensils and put them somewhere that’s easily accessible. Installing a Lazy Susan in one of your cabinets can be a great way to maximize space and make items easier to reach.
How to Avoid Food-borne Illness
Fires and falls are certainly dangerous, but so is food-borne illness. The last thing you want is to accidentally make yourself sick by eating spoiled food or food that hasn’t been cooked properly. It could leave you in bed for days or worse.
To avoid getting sick, it’s smart to check the temperature of your fridge on a regular basis. This is something many people don’t think about doing, but is crucial to ensure the safety of your food. You want to make sure your food is being kept at no more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit — the colder the better. This is because cold helps preserve food for longer.
When it comes to cooking, you’ll want to use separate cutting boards for meat and other foods like fruits or veggies. You can easily purchase different colored cutting boards and designate one for meat and another for everything else. This will make sure you don’t accidentally put food on the uncooked meat cutting board, which could lead to illnesses like salmonella.
After you meal is finished, store leftovers in the fridge right after instead of leaving it to sit out. And when you do heat up those leftovers, the temperature should always reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent food-borne illness.
A common misconception in the kitchen is that food is safe as long as it doesn’t smell spoiled or have mold. Unfortunately though, some food-borne bacteria cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, so you can’t really rely on this tactic. Pay attention to expiration dates and aim to use any ingredients you have before they go out of date.
Make Cooking Stress-Free With a Meal Delivery Service
Another way seniors can cook safely in their own homes is through a meal delivery service. There are so many of these services on the market today, all of which have the benefit of making mealtime much easier. There are a lot of different options out there. You can choose a service that provides pre-made meals that need to be heated in the microwave or oven, such as BistroMD Silver Cuisine (made specifically for seniors). Or you can opt for a service that sends a recipe and fresh, pre-portioned ingredients. Some services, like Gobble, even go as far as pre-chopping and pre-measuring ingredients. This could be a great way to keep the hobby of cooking but make it less stressful.
Either way, a meal delivery service handles your meal planning, grocery shopping, and makes cooking easier. Plus, you’ll have less clean-up to do afterwards. It’s a win-win, especially for seniors!
Written by: Dan and Emily