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Consider these easy tricks if you’ve got a weak grip

Hands-on solutions for seniors

Two people moving into a house stand outside carrying a box and a lamp. Credit: Getty Images / Daisy-Daisy

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Arthritis—a condition that causes joint pain and stiffness—affects almost 50% of people ages 65 and older and is very common in fingers, according to the CDC. Besides this medical diagnosis, seniors are more likely than any other age group to suffer from reduced grip strength due to muscle loss.

This means those who age in place should proactively arrange their spaces for continued use. Whether that means picking up inexpensive tools like reacher-grabbers, gadgets like jar openers or even small construction projects, every little bit gets a thumbs up from certified aging in place building contractors.

If you’re having trouble with your grip, or you know someone who is, here are some easy modifications you can make to the home so you can turn, open, and get in with a lot less frustration.

Make things easier to turn on and off

A person washes their hands with the use of an automatic soap dispenser.
Credit: Logkern

Wash your hands with ease.

Replacing slippery bar soap and cranky hand pumps with motion-sensor suds dispensers in the bathroom and kitchen is among the easiest modifications those with grip issues can make, says Steve Cunningham, owner of Virginia’s Cunningham Contracting and president of the National Association of Home Builders. Switching over from toggles or knobs to paddle switch plates or touch lamps will make life easier for seniors, too.

There’s “almost no end” to what can be automated today, Cunningham adds.

Tyler Owen, owner of Aging-in-Place Remodeling in California, says, “For those with weakened grip strength, voice-activated devices—like Alexa—can completely change their home and make every part of it accessible and usable again.”

Make unlocking and opening the door an easier or even hands-free experience

Close up of kitchen cabinets.
Credit: Ravinte

Get rid of knobs and go for pulls.

Cunningham says simple hardware fixes inside the house are not only aesthetic improvements, but practical ones for seniors.

Turning door knobs with rotating locks that must be grasped pincer-style using the index finger and thumb can be a one-two punch for seniors with grip issues. Installing levers with push locks is a straightforward process, he says.

The same goes for hardware in kitchens and bathrooms, for instance, where small knobs can easily be replaced with wide handles.

Entering and exiting the home is just as important as what’s inside, says Owen, who installs automated door openers to lock and unlock doors with just the push of a button or via voice activation. These can be installed on almost any door—including fumblesome sliding patio doors.

Tech aids are also handy for those wielding mobility devices. Owen says, “Bluetooth-enabled door handlesets can lock and unlock the door for you, which keeps you from having to stop and fumble around looking for keys. It also can allow you to maintain use of both hands when using a cane, walker, or wheelchair, since the electronic door handle will do all the work for you.”

Eliminate leaning, twisting, and lifting while cooking

Two images of an oven and built-in microwave.
Credit: Frigidaire / Sharp

Lessen the burden of lifting anything in the kitchen.

Knobs can also be troublesome in the kitchen, where Cunningham advises investing some resources to get a stove with push buttons instead. You’ll find that most induction ranges have push buttons instead of dials.

He says, “Ninety percent of the time, the knobs are toward the back of the stove and you have to lean over. Having the knobs in the front is much easier to control the temperature, and safer.”

Cunningham also likes to install new units so the stove is level with countertops to lessen the burden of lifting hot food. That’s the same reason he recommends drawer microwaves—which are lower than units installed over stoves—to make it easier to transfer food to countertops.

Take precautions in the bathroom

Close up of a digital thermostat.
Credit: Kohler

Keep things hot in the shower.

Since there’s a significant slip factor, bathrooms are a place where seniors should pay close attention to their safety. While he often recommends grab bars, those with grip issues may want to consider a bench for the inside of the shower.

Turning a shower dial will be difficult, too, for those with a weakened grip, which means regulating temperature can be a challenge. Shower heads with pre-set temperature controls can help prevent scalding for those with weakened reflexes.

Owen recommends another indirect enhancement. Those with compromised grips may not be able to break potential falls easily, so replacing ceramic tile and linoleum with luxury vinyl tile “has nice slip-resistance while being easy to maintain, and is 100% waterproof,” he says. “But if a client cannot afford new flooring, then at a minimum a non-slip mat or rug is needed.”

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