Elderly cooks who are replacing an old kitchen appliance, such as a toaster or toaster oven, must keep in mind that these devices have probably changed since they last purchased one. New technologies have given toaster ovens more features, but they have also added complexity to these once-basic gadgets. Luckily, there are still many toaster ovens that have simplistic designs and work great. The following characteristics will help you sift through the plethora of toasters available to you.
What to Look For in a Toaster Oven:
I. Simple Controls
Overly complex control schemes can be a problem for anyone, but they can be a deal breaker for those who have difficulty remembering too many things at once. Toaster ovens generally don’t need more than three dials or levers, which allow the user to set the cook time, temperature and timer. Don’t be lured in by the convection oven with 2,000 settings unless this will be your primary cooking gadget and you’re pretty confident you’ll need (not to mention use) all those settings.
II. Big Buttons/Dials and Easy to Read Print
If a senior is dealing with diminished motor skills or vision, make sure the toaster dials or levers are large enough to see clearly and grip easily. Any commands should be well spaced and easy to feel so that a senior with diminished sensitivity in their fingers can easily work the controls. Print on the toaster should be large and written in an easy to read font. Look for toaster ovens with big buttons or grip-friendly dials that are clearly marked and easy to manipulate.
III. Good Hand Clearance or Auto-Eject Wire Rack
As we get older, our hands can become less steady, making the act of reaching inside a hot toaster oven to retrieve food dangerous. Having a compact toaster oven is nice, but it will provide minimal hand clearance. Look for toasters with plenty of space between the wire rack and the heating element. If a smaller toaster is preferred, look for a toaster with an auto-eject wire rack, which pulls out automatically when the oven door is opened.
IV. Crumb Tray in Front
Keeping a toaster oven clean is an important safety measure that should be followed to avoid a potential fire. Most crumb trays are found on the bottom of the toaster – either as a pull-out tray or a trap door. The best elder-friendly toaster ovens, however, will have a crumb tray that pulls out in front so the toaster doesn’t have to be moved or lifted.
V. Auto Shut-Off
If memory is an issue, then food left toasting or baking unattended is at risk for burning or even catching fire. A key safety feature is an auto shut-off timer. Look for a toaster oven that has an auto shut-off timer of 30 to 60 minutes.
ElderGadget reviewed the following toaster ovens in person for their elder-friendliness. Here’s what we found.
Elder friendly features: simple controls, big dials, 60-min auto shut-off, good hand clearance
Con: crumb tray pulls out in back
Conclusion: The Cuisinart TOB-50BC has most of the features you need in an elder-friendly toaster, but the crumb tray is in the back. The tray is also very shallow, which leads to crumbs spilling inside the toaster, making it difficult to clean.
Elder friendly features: auto-eject wire rack, crumb tray in front, easy to read, good hand clearance, 60-min auto-off
Con: stiff smooth knobs, machine gets hot
Conclusion: The Black & Decker CTO4400B is a nice, simple toaster oven with great safety features. The only drawbacks are the knobs, which are stiff and smooth, therefore, hard to grip, and how hot the unit gets while in use.
Elder friendly features: simple controls, large dials
Con: minimal hand clearance, small print, crumb tray not detachable
Conclusion: This toaster is good for people who have limited counter space and need a toaster that can hang above a counter. The small size can be dangerous, however, because of the limited hand clearance; we would have liked to see an auto-eject wire rack with this model.
Kenmore 6 Slice Convection Toaster Oven
(Update: This item may not be available at this time. 10/22/2009)
Elder friendly features: simple controls, big dials, crumb tray in front, 60-min auto shut-of, good hand clearance
Con: small print
Conclusion:This toaster has most of the features we are looking for in an elder-friendly toaster. However, it does have small print, which seems to come with the territory when it comes to toasters.
Elder friendly features: vision friendly controls, lots of hand clearance, big controls, auto-eject wire rack
Con: complicated, foil not recommended, machine gets hot
Conclusion: The Breville BOV800XL is a feature-rich oven that offers fairly simple controls for setting the temperature and time. The instruction manual is large, and there is a learning curve. Only pick up this toaster if you are comfortable with memorizing digital controls.
Elder friendly features: auto shut-off, large buttons, easy to read, loud beeping
Con: excessive buttons, hot externally, loud beeping
Conclusion: Although the DeLonghi DO400 has some elder-friendly features, the button scheme is a little complex for a toaster. It beeps very loudly, which could be helpful for someone with poor hearing, but it could also be very annoying.
Elder friendly features: simple controls, large dials, auto-eject wire rack, 30-min auto shut-off
Con: small print, crumb tray is not easy to access, wire rack is flimsy
Conclusion: This toaster is as simple as it gets and has some nice safety features. Cleaning will be difficult because the crumb tray is a trap door that requires you to lift the toaster to open it up.
Elder friendly features: good hand clearance
Con: small print, flat buttons, complicated controls
Conclusion: This toaster oven can do it all and would be great for someone who needs a microwave alternative. If you are looking for a simple, elder-friendly toaster, however, then this probably isn’t for you.