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Find out how you can adjust everyday kitchen utensils, such as knives and tin openers, so your relative can continue to cook their favourite food even if they've developed physical problems.

Being able to prepare their own meals can allow your relative to continue to feel confident and independent while also helping them to keep to a healthy diet, so it’s important to encourage him or her to continue to be active in the kitchen.

On this page you can find information on:

1. Sitting down to prepare food
2. Positioning of utensils
3. Opening jars and cans
4. Using knives and scissors safely
5. Other kitchen utensils and non-slip mats

Sitting down to prepare food

If your relative is struggling to move around and stand in the kitchen, the first thing to consider is whether it’s possible for them to sit down while preparing their food.

If there isn’t already a table and chair in the kitchen, you may be able to install a small set in one corner if there’s space.

Perching stool

Alternatively, consider a perching stool, which can be very useful in the kitchen as long as there is space for your relative’s knees under at least one work surface. This can help your relative prepare food at the work surface without getting too tired or losing their balance.

If a perching stool is to be used for washing up, there should ideally be knee room under the sink. These stools are available with and without padded arms.

Positioning of utensils

Chat with your relative about where food and utensils are usually stored. Any items used fairly regularly should be easy to access – not too high up or low down, and not too far back within a cupboard.

If your relative sometimes forgets where certain items are stored, add labels to each cupboard or drawer.

Opening jars and cans

If your relative has trouble gripping or has little strength, opening jars and cans can be a trial. A few simple products can make a big difference in the kitchen.

There are openers designed to help those with a painful or limited grip, and others that are made to boost leverage. They’re suitable for use on a range of differently sized jars and all kinds of bottles - including both plastic and glass.

Opening cans with a pull lever can be tricky for people with painful fingers. You can buy specifically designed larger-handled ring pulls to help. For tins without ring-pull lids, electric tin openers can be incredibly beneficial if your relative finds it difficult to use a manual one.

Using knives and scissors safely

Sometimes fear about using knives and scissors in particular is a source of anxiety that puts older people off cooking. However, there are items available that can help your relative stay safe and reduce the risk of injury.

Scissors, peelers and graters

Consider buying scissors that are lightweight or self-opening, as these will take pressure off painful fingers. Your relative might also benefit from easy-open safety tools with protected blades that can be used to slice open paper and plastic food wrappers.

For peeling fruit and vegetables, there are ergonomic peelers that can help your relative if he or she has problems gripping conventional peelers. Also, some graters have specially designed handles so there’s never a risk of scraped fingertips.

Knives and cutting boards

It’s possible to find knives with longer and angled handles, from bread knives to carving knives. A spiked chopping board that will hold items in place can also be very beneficial.

There are several products available that can help hold the knife in place when slicing bread, vegetables and meat. These can be useful if your relative’s eyesight is poor or they’re finding it difficult to hold the food and cut at the same time.

If chopping with knives is too painful or time consuming, there’s a variety of small choppers on the market that will chop or dice vegetables more readily and safely.

Other kitchen utensils and non-slip mats

There is also a good range of kitchen utensils for mashing vegetables, stirring pans and measuring ingredients. These all have larger handles and text that’s easier to read for people who may struggle with conventional tools.

Non-slip matting is invaluable in the kitchen when preparing food. It helps keep mixing bowls still when stirring, and can secure cups and other items in place on a tray when carrying from one room to another.

For information on where to buy kitchen utensils, see our Useful organisations and websites.

More information

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: November 2018