By Anna Hazard
Smaller appliances such as microwaves, blenders, and food processors within the kitchen can be just as integral to properly aging in place as their larger counterparts. As these do not involve as much of a time or money investment as other kitchen features, they can be replaced at any point while preparing the household for better accessibility.
Since these types of gadgets are generally easier to use during food preparation, they will tend to become more and more important over the years as the user ages and thus should definitely not be left out when creating a more senior friendly kitchen environment.
Microwaves & Microwave Ovens
Microwaves are handy devices for a kitchen that has been properly adjusted for aging in place as they are an easy way to quickly heat up food without having to resort to the more labor intensive (and potentially more dangerous) use of stovetops and standard ovens. They are also one of more inexpensive devices available for the kitchen and should be easy to swap out for a more accessible version (depending if one needs to remodel the cabinetry for an built-in or wall style one).
In general microwaves should be installed at or below counter height (whether freestanding, wall mounted, or built into the cabinetry) as that placement is more accessible for those in wheelchairs and also lessens the need to stretch upwards especially when handling heated materials.
Many seniors find it easier to access microwaves that have been placed on stands instead of those installed at the back of the kitchen counter or in a more raised microwave cabinet. Another option would be to use a fold down or drawer style microwave oven situated at a height that is easy to reach when both sitting & standing and that has an open area nearby for easy transition of food & heated materials to the nearby countertops.
Other options to keep in mind when it comes to microwaves include making certain that the brand & style in question has large & simple controls that are easy to read and use. A more simplified interface would keep down the total amount of control buttons (an oversupply of which can become confusing) to necessary numbers, activation, and a few pre-programmed cook times. In addition, the control buttons should not require an overabundance of pressure to activate and the microwave should include a bright, large, and well-lit display.
The microwave should have a one-touch cooking ability as well as both audio & visual indicators (for those who may be either hard of hearing or with visual acuity problems) for when food has completed heating and is ready to be removed from the interior. Additional simple directions supplied by the microwave (such as when foods need to be stirred or reheated) would also be beneficial.
While especially helpful for those with dementia or Alzheimer's, any user would also benefit from a microwave that has an auto shutoff function as well as those that give repeated warnings (both audio and visual) when food has been left inside its compartment.
In general, as microwaves generally come in two styles, one whose door is opened by pulling a handle outward while the other has a large button to push and pop open the door, the physical capabilities of the user (whether pulling or button pushing would be the easier task) should also be kept in mind. A good compromise would be a microwave whose door can be manipulated through both options (ie a primary push button door that has a manual pull bar for back-up).
Blenders & Food Processors
As the chances for developing dysphagia (trouble swallowing) or other difficulties chewing (including a greater chance of using dentures) tends to increase with age, it would be best for an aging-in-place kitchen to have a blender or food processor on hand for making healthy smoothies or otherwise dicing down items that may be too large or tough to swallow whole.
Higher powered blenders and food processors are recommended to make certain that all ingredients are liquefied smoothly without any leftover chunks that may pose a choking hazard (and without needing the food be cut into pieces beforehand as some lower powered varieties may require). These are particularly important when it comes to making smoothies, shakes, soups, and fruit & vegetable drinks.
Senior friendly features to keep in mind for blenders & food processors include making certain that the device has easy to remove lids (especially for arthritic hands & fingers) that can preferably be removed with one hand only as well as simple, easy-to-read controls with large ergonomic buttons, dials, or switches that are widely spaced apart for easy access (including a single push activation feature).
The appliance should also be easy to maintain and clean such as having removable blades for rinsing (instead of forcing the user to reach inside to clean the interior). Multi-part blenders should be easy to disassemble without requiring much strength to pull apart and re-engage its various parts. Otherwise the less interior nooks and crannies that need to be cleaned within the gadget, the better.
Overall the blenders or food processors should be lightweight but stable & sturdy, unlikely to tip over, and with easy to grip pitchers. Pitcher handles should be wide, fit easily within the hand, and preferably have a soft grip. It's also recommended that the blender jar be composed of plastic or polycarbonate which are both more durable and lighter to handle than standard glass jars (the latter of which can pose as an accident or injury risk if dropped).
A cord storage feature can also be beneficial as it keeps the cord tucked away from any potential tripping or yanking accidents. Otherwise, blenders that are quieter while active can be helpful for those users with hearing difficulties where the background sound of the appliance may drown out other more important sounds (such as the doorbell or phone ringing).
View the Rest of the Series
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Exterior
Part 3 - Landscaping & Gardens
Part 4 - Patio, Porch, & Deck
Part 5 - Garage & Carports
Part 6 - Entrances, Exits, & Thresholds
Part 7 - Exterior Steps & Ramps
Part 8 - Threshold Lighting & Windows
Part 9 - Interior Doors & Halls
Part 10 - Interior Steps & Staircases
Part 11 - Interior Stairlifts
Part 12 - Interior Elevators
Part 13 - Interior Lighting
Part 14 - General Interior Flooring
Part 15 - Interior Flooring Comparisons
Part 16 - HVAC & Energy Efficiency
Part 17 - Power, Communications, & Other Interior Systems
Part 18 - Living Room
Part 19 - Kitchen Layout, HVAC, & Electrical Systems
Part 20 - Kitchen Lighting, Flooring, and Sink Faucets
Part 21 - Kitchen Countertops & Cabinets
Part 22 - Kitchen Refrigerators, Freezers, and Dishwashers
Part 23 - Kitchen Ovens, Ranges, Stovetops, and Cooktops
Part 24 - Kitchen Microwaves, Blenders, & Food Processors
Part 25 - Miscellaneous Kitchen Items
Part 26 - Dining Room Layout, Tables, & Other Furniture
Part 27 - Dining Room Flooring, Lighting, & Meal Serving Equipment
Part 28 - Bedroom Layout & Closets
Part 29 - Accessible Beds
Part 30 - Bedroom Furniture, Electronics, & Other Accessories
Part 31 - Bedroom Flooring
Part 32 - Bedroom Lighting
Part 32 - Bathroom
Part 33 - Laundry Room