Ovens and hobs
If you’re beginning to find it difficult using the cooker, maybe because of impaired vision or reduced strength or dexterity in your fingers, there are a couple of products you can add to the cooker that can be helpful.
These are self-adhesive raised dots, available from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
You can attach them next to the oven or hob settings that are used most frequently. Use them on other appliances, too, such as the microwave, dishwasher and washing machine.
Knobs can become difficult to turn if they’re small or stiff, or if they require more than one type of action, such as pushing and turning at the same time. Knob turners that provide a large handle to grip are simple products that help to give extra leverage.
Lifting food into the oven and on to the hob
If you’re having trouble lifting food in or out of your oven or onto the hob, there are a couple of changes you can consider to make cooking as safe as possible.
If carrying heavier items is an issue, get a trolley to move hot pans from the stove, and dishes from the oven, to the work surface or kitchen table. There’s also a range of double-handled saucepans that are safer to lift than traditional pans, as you can use both hands.
Choosing a new cooker
If you’re having certain difficulties using the cooker, perhaps because the oven is too low or the hob too high, think about buying a new one better suited to your needs. The following design elements might be helpful:
- a large visual display, positioned where it can be easily read
- colour-contrasted controls, such as a white unit with brown or black controls
- large controls that are easy to use and reach, preferably at the front so you don’t have to lean over the hob
- controls that don’t get hot when the hob or oven is being used
- for a gas oven, automatic ignition for the hobs and oven. They also tend to have a safely feature with a gas cut-off if the hob unit is not ignited
- a built-in oven timer; if you don’t hear well, check this is suitably loud and at a frequency/pitch that can be heard.
For more help with buying the right cooker, read through the Which? Home & garden guides on how to buy the best built-in oven, buying the best hob, buying the best built-in oven and how to buy the best freestanding cooker.
Alternatives to traditional ovens
If you’re finding it difficult to bend down to get to the oven, consider installing a separate oven at a height where you can easily see what’s inside, and can place dishes on an oven shelf that’s level with a work surface. A pull-out shelf under the oven can make a useful temporary resting place for hot dishes.
Another option is a mini oven. These are small, standalone ovens that can sit on a kitchen work surface, preventing the need to bend low to lift hot, and potentially heavy, cookware. However, they obviously have a more limited capacity than a traditional oven.
If you’re living with dementia or caring for someone with dementia, think carefully before replacing a piece of kitchen equipment. Learning something new can be difficult, so you may not actually benefit from a simpler oven or cooker.
Microwave ovens are sometimes considered to be a poor substitute for conventional ovens. It’s true that they aren’t as versatile, but for certain tasks a microwave can be very useful. They can cook or heat food more quickly, and are therefore more energy efficient as well as being small and compact.
If you decide to buy a microwave, consider looking for:
- a model that’s simple and straightforward to use – it’s unlikely you’ll need one with a great variety of settings or additional features
- clear, large display panels
- tactile controls, available on some models; just as with conventional ovens, you can place raised dots (bumpons) near microwave controls
- a microwave with a built-in sensor to automatically adjust the cooking time.
For more detailed guidance, see the Which? review guide on how to buy the best microwave.
Talking microwaves and ovens
Some mini ovens or microwaves have a ‘talking’ feature, which is useful for people who are partially sighted. Among other things, they advise the user to ‘stir food’, ‘allow food to cool’ or ‘close door’. The Which? review guide to easy-to-use-microwaves explains more.
Choosing a new fridge-freezer
Buying a new fridge freezer is no longer a case of simply choosing between a freestanding or a built-in model – there are now more features to choose from than ever before. Models with the fridge at the top are best for older people, as these require less bending, since fridges tend to be used more frequently than freezers.
Use the interactive tool in the Which? essential fridge freezer features guide to help you work out which one is best for your needs.
Choosing a dishwasher
Washing up sometimes requires a significant amount of time and energy. If space allows, consider installing a dishwasher. The best ones not only save time and effort, but can be more efficient in terms of hot water and energy use.
Several manufacturers now produce compact dishwashers, some of which are approximately half the size of standard models and ideal for kitchens where space is limited or if you're living alone.
Some other dishwasher features to bear in mind include:
- buttons for controls rather than electronic touch pads, which are more fiddly to use
- buttons raised from, rather than flush to, the surface might be easier to deal with
- anti-flood devices that stop a dishwasher from filling further if there is water in its base.
Use the interactive tool in the Which? essential dishwasher features guide to help you work out which dishwasher is best for your needs.
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