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7 ways to keep everyday items within reach at home

No ladders to climb here

A man in a wheelchair puts away dishes in a kitchen. Credit: Getty Images / AndreyPopov

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As you age, you may find it increasingly difficult to reach, lift or bend over, making it a challenge to access the items we need to perform daily tasks. Not only is this frustrating but in some instances it can be downright dangerous.

Straining for an item may lead to a fall. And, if accessing needed items becomes a hassle, it may affect you in other negative ways, discouraging you from cooking, bathing, or even getting dressed.

We’ve got some tips on what you can do around your home to make it easier and less dangerous to do what you need to do in your senior years.

1. Install shorter base cabinets and vanities

A man in a wheelchair cooks a meal in a kitchen.
Credit: Getty Images / Jupiterimages

Shorter base cabinets can offer more accessibility.

If you are wheelchair user or have trouble standing, you may want to consider installing lower-height base kitchen cabinets. Average height of kitchen cabinets is 36 inches, so you would want less than that. Lowering upper cabinets can also make accessibility easier. You may also wish to install open shelving, rather than cabinets with doors, to provide quicker access.

In the bathroom, consider installing a shorter-height vanity. A vanity with open shelving, rather than doors, can be a good solution in a narrow bathroom where opening and closing a vanity door could be awkward.

2. Use pullout drawers and shelves

A person opens a kitchen drawer.
Credit: Getty Images / Vudhikul Ocharoen

Cabinets with drawers are a useful substitute for shelves.

Bending down and reaching into a dark cabinet to see what’s at the back of the shelf can be awkward and sometimes lead to a fall. Instead of base cabinets with shelves, opt for base cabinets with drawers that allow you to easily see and access the contents.

Deep drawers are perfect for storing large or heavy items such as pots and pans. If you don’t want to replace your cabinets, you can remove the existing shelves and install pullout shelving instead.

Options include single- or double-tiered wooden or metal-basket shelves. They come in a variety of widths, including narrow shelving that optimizes unused small spaces between cabinets and appliances—a good option for storing heavy jars or frequently used items or ingredients.

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If you don’t have the space to mount a drawer, free-standing pullout baskets that you simply place on a shelf are an option, too.

If you have tall upper cabinets, you may want to install pull-down shelves. These are lever-operated metal storage units that you access by grabbing the handle and pulling the shelves out and down to approximately eye level.

3. Use Lazy Susans, tiered racks, and mounted caddies for storage

Two images of Lazy Susans, one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom.
Credit: Getty Images / jimkruger / The Home Edit

A Lazy Susan ensures items are always within reach.

Reaching into corner cabinets can be difficult, and for this reason these awkward spaces are often underused. Optimize this valuable storage space by installing a two-shelf Lazy Susan that has a turntable design ensuring items are always within reach and never disappear into the back of the cabinet.

A pullout Lazy Susan offers even better access; this type of device features a half-circle table that turns and then slides away from the cabinet so you can see the entire contents at once.

You can also use smaller, free-standing Lazy Susans on upper shelves, countertops, or vanities. These are great for storing small kitchen or bath tools.

Free-standing tiered racks provide easy access and visibility for such kitchen items as spices, cans and bottles. In the bathroom, a small Lazy Susan can be placed on top of the vanity for easy access to makeup, perfume, nail polish and other smaller items.

When bathing or showering you don’t want to have to reach for items and risk a fall. A mounted caddy that doubles as a grab bar is a great option for keeping shampoo, soap, washcloths and other items within reach.

4. Hang or mount items

Wall-mounted kitchen knives and a wall-mounted scarf organizer.
Credit: Getty Images / beeldlab / Umbra

A mounted magnetic knife strip and a hanging scarf organizer can keep items handy.

Hanging frequently used utensils and other kitchen tools may be more convenient than keeping them in a drawer. Save counter space and have all items at the ready by installing a magnetic knife strip that also has hooks for utensils.

Use hooks in the bedroom for hanging frequently worn items such as scarves, hats and robes. Keep shoes and other items off the floor by using a hanging shoe holder.

In the entryway, use a wall-mounted organizer that has a shelf for holding mail and hooks for keys, dog leashes and other items you wish to keep by the door.

Make sure all mounted items are securely fastened to the wall, are at an accessible height and do not require reaching over the stove or other potentially hazardous appliance or piece of furniture.

5. Extend your reach

A person using a Vive Rotating Reacher Grabber picks up a remote control.
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Vive Rotating Reacher Grabber was ranked as the best reacher grabber of 2021 by Reviewed.

Reaching for a can of soup, putting on a shirt or picking up a dropped item can be a challenge because of weakening strength, balance, flexibility and mobility. A variety of specialty tools can help with these tasks.

Reacher-grabber tools are handheld devices that generally consist of a trigger-type handle on one end and a claw-like grasping mechanism on the other. They are generally 2 to 3 feet long and allow users to access items of various sizes, from beverage glasses to books to cans to jars without overstretching, bending or risking a fall.

There are also a number of gadgets that open jars, which can be difficult for people with arthritis or strength issues.

Getting dressed can be difficult for people with Parkinson’s disease, arthritis or other conditions that cause trembling or otherwise limit one’s grasping ability.

A dressing stick is a wood or metal dowel, about 28 inches long, with a large double hook at one end and a small hook at the other. The larger hook is used for pulling on a shirt, sweater or jacket. The smaller hook can be inserted into a zipper tab to pull the zipper up or down.

A button hook and zipper pull has a wire loop at one end that is inserted through the buttonhole, loops around a button and pulls it through the hole. The other end of the pull has a small hook that you insert in the zipper tab and pull.

It can also be used to remove socks. It can’t, however, pull on socks; for that you need a sock aid.

There are various devices for help pulling on socks. Most have a contoured shell that goes along the bottom of the foot. The end of the sock is inserted onto the shell and pulled up by hand using two cords; some but not all work with compression socks.

For putting on shoes, a long shoe horn works for people who have trouble bending over, while a short shoe horn works for those who prefer to put their shoes on from a sitting position.

6. Stay steady and sturdy with stools

Two images of people using step ladders in kitchens.
Credit: Duro-Med

A stool can help you stay steady and sturdy.

When a reacher-grabber tool won’t do the trick, you may need to use a stool, which can sometimes be dicey for seniors, especially if you have balance problems.

It is best to avoid tall stools, even if you feel confident that you can navigate them. Opt instead for a single-step stool made of sturdy steel or hard plastic with a non-slip surface. For added support, select a stool with an attached handrail. A sturdy, portable folding stool can be tucked away between cabinets or in a closet when not in use.

7. Organize your nightstand

A bedside organizer sits at the edge of a bed.
Credit: Binden

A bedside organizer keeps essentials close.

There is nothing more frustrating than settling into bed to read or watch TV only to realize you’ve misplaced your glasses or can’t find the remote.

To avoid having to hunt through your home for the lost items, place a bedside organizer on your nightstand. You can use something as simple as a small plastic tray with compartments or purchase an organizer that includes a docking station for your phone or other electronic devices; some even include a table lamp.

Whatever organizer you choose, make sure you don’t have to reach up to access it; place it on a nightstand that is level with the bed.

Bedside caddies are also a simple and money-saving option for keeping essentials close at hand. These come in a variety of materials, from felt to plastic to leather, and include a board that slips between the mattress and the box spring. The board is attached to a panel that hangs over the edge of the bed and contains a pouch with compartments. (Note: These types of caddies will not work with adjustable, hospital-type beds.) You can store your remote control, glasses, phone, magazines or a book so that they are easily at hand.

There are also bed rails that double as bedside organizers. These metal devices, which include a plastic pouch with compartments, attach to the bed frame and can be folded down when not in use. Like the bedroom caddies, however, they are not suitable for adjustable beds.

If you do find yourself having to get up in the night, motion-activated night lights installed throughout the house will help you safely find your way around.

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