Kitchen Ideas for Aging-in-Place

June 26, 2024 at 6:55 p.m. Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

My 77-year-old mother, who loves to cook has had several kitchen-related accidents over the past year. What tips can you recommend for making a kitchen safer and more practical for seniors, without doing a big expensive remodel?

     --Inquiring Daughter

Dear Inquiring,

There are a number of small improvements and simple modifications you can do that can make a big difference in making your mom’s kitchen safer and easier to maneuver. Depending on her needs, here are some tips for different aspects of her kitchen.

Lights: If the lighting in your mom’s kitchen needs improvement, replace the old overhead fixture with a bright new ceiling light, and add LED lighting under upper kitchen cabinets to brighten up her kitchen countertops.

Floors: If she has kitchen throw rugs, to reduce tripping or slipping, replace them with non-skid floor mats or consider gel mats, which are cushiony and more comfortable to stand on for long periods. and offer a nice selection.

Cabinets and drawers: To reduce bending or reaching, organize your mom’s kitchen cabinets and drawers so that the items she most frequently uses are within comfortable reach. You can also make her lower cabinets and pantry easier to access by installing pullout shelves or lazy susans. And, by installing pull-down shelves in her upper cabinets (see so she doesn’t have to get on a stool to reach things on high shelves. I also recommend replacing her cabinet and drawer knobs with “D” or “C” shaped pull-handles because they’re more comfortable for arthritic hands to grasp than knobs.

Faucet: If your mom has a twist-handle kitchen faucet, replace it with an ADA compliant single handle faucet, or with a touch, motion or digital smart faucet. They’re easier to operate, especially if she has hand arthritis or gripping problems. And, for safety purposes, set her hot water tank at 120 degrees to prevent possible water burns.

Microwave and cooktop safety: If your mom’s microwave is mounted above her stove, consider moving it, or get her a small microwave for the countertop so she doesn’t have to reach over a cooktop to insert or remove food. And if you’re worried about your mom forgetting to turn off the stove there are automatic shut-off devices you can purchase and install to prevent a fire. iGuardStove ( makes one of the best smart shutoff devices for gas and electric stoves. And to guard against microwave fires, there’s the SmartMicro microwave shutoff made by Pioneering Technology (

Shopping for Appliances

If you’re looking to upgrade some of your mom’s appliances, here are some different features to keep in mind.

Refrigerator: French-door refrigerators that open in the middle are great for seniors because it makes it easier to see and reach what’s inside. Pullout adjustable height shelves and a water/ice dispenser on the outside of the door are also very convenient.

Stove or cooktop: Look for one with controls in the front so your mom won’t have to reach over hot burners to turn it off, and make sure the controls are easy to see. Flat surface electric or induction burners, or continuous grates on gas stoves are also great for sliding heavy pots and pans from one burner to the next. And ask about automatic shut off burners.

Oven: Self-cleaning ovens are a plus and consider a side-swing door model. They’re easier to get into because you don’t have to lean over a hot swing-down door. Also consider a wall-mounted oven, installed at your mom’s preferred height to eliminate bending.

Dishwasher: Consider a drawer-style dishwasher that slides in and out for easier access and, if possible, have it installed on a raised platform 12 to 24 inches above floor level so it can be loaded and unloaded without bending over.

Washer and dryer: Front-load washers and dryers with pedestals that raise the height around 24 inches are also back-savers and easier to access.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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