When Barbara Beskind, 92, had trouble reaching foods in the back of her refrigerator, she installed a lazy susan on an inside shelf. The revolving tray makes items much easier to reach. Ms. Beskind, a former occupational therapist in the Army who has age-related macular degeneration, a disease that reduces her central vision, also attached small tactile bumps to the “Answer” button and the “2” and “8” keys on her phone, making it easier for her to respond to and make calls.
Many older people, like Ms. Beskind, are forgoing high-tech gadgetry in favor of common – and usually much cheaper – items from office supply and hardware stores, repurposing them to solve everyday problems. Sugru, a moldable putty that turns into rubber, can be used to round out sharp corners on furniture in order to prevent injuries. Rubber bands can be affixed to cups to make them easier to grip. A clothespin can be clipped to the rim of a cup with a drinking straw taped to it to hold the straw in place. A pants hanger can hold a cookbook open at eye level.
Glen Hougan, who teaches industrial design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, calls creative and resourceful repurposers like Ms. Beskind hackers, a term often applied to computer programmers who develop creative workarounds, or hacks, to particular problems. He began researching hacks designed to ease the burdens of aging in the early 2000s, after finding that many of the store-bought items that were available to the elderly were sterile, generic and lacking in variety. One of his favorite hacks involves hanging an old stocking in a shower with a bar of soap tucked into the foot. As the soap gradually shrinks, it remains inside the stocking instead of a becoming a slipping hazard on the floor. The slightly abrasive nylon stocking material has the added benefit of exfoliating the skin. Read more at The New York Times.