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Hi-Tech Gets All the Headlines, But Don’t Ignore These Low Tech (And Mostly Cheap) Devices for “Aging in Place” Seniors and Everyone Else

| Owen Barclay |

Don’t get us wrong: we think cool high-tech devices like Siri and Alexa can play an important role in aging in place design. “OK, Google” is pretty great too. But we’re writing this blog to remind our readers and clients that there are low-cost adaptive and accessibility tools that can make life a little bit easier around the house

Here are some of our favourites:

Are you familiar with “reach tools”? These are hand-held extension devices that allow you to grab an item from an upper shelf or pick something up off the floor without stretching or bending. They vary in length from 8 or 9 inches to a full extension of around three feet (32″ is most typical). Squeezing a trigger on the handle closes the arms of the tool and grips the desired item. Some models come equipped with magnetic tips that boost their usefulness. Lightweight and inexpensive, these handy gadgets are valuable in the kitchen, but can also be used around the lawn and garden. And you can find specialized reach and “grabbing” tools adapted for pulling on socks and slipping into shoes. Reach tools can make life better!

How about the one-handed buttoning Hook? The older we get, the less our fingers seem to work, especially when trying to button shirts, collars, or waistbands. Usually, less than $10, one-handed buttoning tools work by slipping a hook over the troublesome button and pulling it through the buttonhole. They’re good on any size button but are most appreciated when eliminating the frustration that grows larger as the button grows smaller. 

Trouble twisting doorknobs? Well, we always preach replacing knobs with lever handles. But, there’s a pretty neat temporary fix that fits over the knobs and makes them easier to grab and turn. Called “doorknob grips,” these are usually plastic or rubber caps that stretch over the knob making it a bit larger, a lot grippier and so much easier to twist. Some even glow in the dark, providing a bonus night light. And while we’re on the subject, you might want to consider lamp switch enlargers that fit over lamp switch knobs and make turning lights on and off much more manageable. One more: light switch sliders that make it possible to adjust the height of light switches for different users…a real boost for folks in wheelchairs.

Need some kitchen magic to help open jars. We’ve all been there; nothing is more frustrating than being unable to twist open a jar or bottle cap. And sometimes, the excess strain that we place on bodies by trying leads to a wrist or back injury. To the rescue, simple gripper pads, usually made of rubber or silicon, are precisely what the doctor ordered particularly for those with slight or moderate joint pain or weakness. Grippy and textured, these provide just enough additional leverage to ease the work of opening stubborn bottle and jar tops. Need something with a little more oomph, but also inexpensive. Jar opener tools that add a handle to a fitting that tightly grips the lid is your answer. These are made for those with more limited hand and arm strength. Some other devices to consider are cutting, and preparation boards designed for one-handed use. This reduces the danger of injury when using a sharp utensil. You might also look into one-handed stovetop holders that keep pots and pans in place while stirring or otherwise working with food.

Here’s a lift for all us couch potatoes. Nothing better than sinking into a comfortable armchair or favorite sofa. But if you suffer from joint pain or muscle weakness, the discomfort of getting up can quickly put an end to that pleasure. The solution is a chair lift. Place on a couch and let it gently lower you to seat level. And when you want to get up, it provides gentle and smooth lift assistance to help you onto your feet. These are generally portable and self-powered(no motors or batteries) and can be used on most sofas and chairs.

Want some more info? The above shortlist represents a little taste of the kinds of low-tech and inexpensive devices that can smooth out your day-to-day life.  If we’ve piqued your interest, we’re always available to share our knowledge and experience in low and high tech and all other aging in place and accessibility matters. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 604-259-9774 or email us at [email protected].