Pick up the paper or turn on the news. Why? Poor hearing and vision, as well as impaired mobility contribute to putting mature adults in the highest risk group for cooking fires. In addition to $7 billion in property damage per year in the U.S. alone, the National Fire Protection Association reports that 43 percent of people killed in cooking fires were asleep at the time. It’s easy to see that seniors who generally fall asleep early and are more forgetful can easily become a very sad statistic.
What’s more, the number of seniors is skyrocketing. According to US News, between 2000 and 2010, the number of people age 65 to 84 in the U.S. grew by 3.3 million, and the 40 million senior citizens in 2012 will balloon to 89 million by 2050.
This situation is a wakeup call to those in the senior housing industry, as well as to the adult children of the elderly. Developers spend millions building beautiful retirement communities with many amenities that cater to people over 55, but may not consider that distraction, forgetfulness and memory loss can pose significant dangers to residents who cook.
I am calling on AARP and other senior advocates to lobby congress to increase senior cooking safety by requiring that all new senior housing require, at the very least, an automatic range top fire suppression system in both private apartments and community kitchens.
Further, with the recession and concurrent reductions in firefighter staff seen nationwide, it is imperative to stop fires before they start. I encourage states to look at fire prevention, reduction and range-top suppression equipment and require that it be mandatory in new buildings just like sprinklers and earthquake shut-off valves are. In fact, 2013 offers an ideal opportunity for groups representing seniors to introduce legislation mandating such protections.