Tools and household helps for aging parents
February 23, 2010 11:57 AM   Subscribe

What tools and other handy things are useful for aging parents?

My parents love the LED-illuminated magnifying glass that I got them. And even though they tried to give it back at first, they enjoy their iPod more than they ever thought they would. I am looking for other tools and handy things to make their lives easier.

My mom is blind in one eye due to a stroke, and my Dad is battling cancer which leaves him fatigued.

Extra points for subtlety - I don't want to show up with a phone with jumbo numbers on the keys like in Gran Torino. My parents are independent and self-sufficient and I am just looking to make their lives a bit easier.

My mom is into gardening and cooking. My Dad is into his classic car, fixing things, and having a really nice yard. They have cats and a dog and they love their pets. They are also really into their grandchildren.
posted by Ostara to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Ove Glove

Pretty cheesy, but since I got one as a stocking stuffer I've used it all the time and I'm not old at all...
posted by jckll at 12:03 PM on February 23, 2010

Oxo kitchen tools have good grips for hands that aren't as grippy as they used to be, plus they're stylish enough so everyone can use them. My father has a label maker that he uses on containers of stuff so he can remember what's in them. Bigger flatscreen monitors for the computer and larger easier to use remotes for the tv if they have either of those things.
posted by jessamyn at 12:03 PM on February 23, 2010

My dad is 72 and he has noticed that his hand strength hasn't been has strong as it used to be so I bought him a Gripmaster Hand Strengthener and he loves it because he can watch TV and use it.
posted by govtdrone at 12:08 PM on February 23, 2010

My mom has macular degeneration, which is slowly making reading harder for her. She's planning to buy herself a Kindle because you can increase the type size.

She also has the Pantech Breeze as her cell phone, which is easy to use without being all I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:23 PM on February 23, 2010

Garden stools with wheels are great (this on as example only).
posted by Pineapplicious at 12:24 PM on February 23, 2010

A jar opener. There are more modern ones that probably work just as well, but that's the kind I'm familiar with.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:25 PM on February 23, 2010

The AARP has some suggestions at their site.
posted by jaimev at 12:36 PM on February 23, 2010

My parent love, love, LOVE TV Ears, simple small headphones they can wear so the rest of us don't have to endure cranked-up TV volume.
posted by GaelFC at 12:44 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Oxo Good Grips line of kitchen tools. They're well-designed and affordable.

Also, look around the house for little things that might need changing to accomodate your parents' needs: do all the stairs have handholds? Are there enough nightlights to allow navigation in case of a power outage? Is the furniture in the TV room close enough to the screen for comfortable viewing? Also check smoke detectors, CO2 detectors, and the security system: are the alarms loud enough for old ears? Do you have carpet runners on hardwood floors that need to be secured to prevent trips and falls? Do the house keys have color-coded sleeves to make them easy to tell apart? Is there easy access to tubs, showers, and toilets, or do they need some handholds and railings?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:47 PM on February 23, 2010

Pet series roomba?

Good suggestions also at KK Cool Tools (for Garden and Kitchen).
posted by cranberryskies at 12:59 PM on February 23, 2010

I may pose this as an Ask if no one here can answer -- my mother is looking for a hair brush that reaches around somehow, which she can use to groom the hair on the back of her head; poor sweetie can't reach there any more and she still wants to look nice of course. She's 88 and lost much mobility in her arms/shoulders/damn near every other place too. She saw one in some publication somewhere, didn't save the publication and I've not been able to find the dang brush, probably not google-foo-ey enough here...

My mother never could 'get' the mp3 player I got her though she does love cd players and dvd etc. The computer we got her caused her more aggravation than happiness it seems, and she gave it up, never could understand it at all, and the two sibs who live in the Phoenix area are barely 'puter literate themselves, and they could not help; one of my sisters and I spent hours on the phone for months but ... Didn't happen.

She had a very hard time getting a comfortable chair, we (sibs and I) finally got her one at Relax The Back, the kind that stand her up / set her down, not cheap @ 2 grand but worth it I think, still not pain free -- she got into a car wreck twenty-five or thirty years ago, some dope in a shopping center parking lot creamed her from behind, no way out and she saw it coming and tensed up, her shoulder and low back have never, ever quit hurting -- but nothing will be that we can see, and we've tried it all, doesn't sound like your parents are in that place.

If your parents have any knots in their shoulders to work out, these things are pretty dang good, once you get the hang of them. My mother is too far gone to be able to use this but my younger brother got me one and it's good when I take the time to take the time, if you catch my drift -- the American in me is in a big hurry, and I dig into those muscles (which got knotted by my being in a big hurry of course) too deep too fast sometimes.

I love the LED magnifying lens, that might be next -- thanx!
posted by dancestoblue at 1:00 PM on February 23, 2010

I bought this measuring cup and some regular new silicon spatulas for my mom several years ago. She just told me again last week how much she appreciated the measuring cups because she can so easily see the inside measurements. I just sent her a little keychain that shows a slideshow of family pics, and she likes it a lot. She does NOT want any more digital picture frames.
posted by raisingsand at 1:02 PM on February 23, 2010

dancestoblue, there are a lot of hairbrushes that are made to address these problems. Here's one that looks decent. Googleable terms are often the thing you're looking for plus "assistive technology" or "adaptive technology" and you can browse to see what ideas are there. The Oxo stuff is made under the universal design principle which is that stuff that is simple to use can actually be simple for everyone to use and not just "old people can openers" or whatever.

To the original question, I've found one of the things that helps my Dad is coming down and helping him do sort of quarterly or monthly tasks that are ancillary to the things he likes to do. So washing the couch cushions, taking in the porch furniture, taking the dog to the groomer. It's not a shopping thing per se, but showing up to help your mom put the gardening stuff away might be useful, something you could do together, and would help with something that might be a bit of a bigger project for her as she grows older.
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on February 23, 2010

n'thing the OXO recommendation. I actually ended up buying most of the set for myself, even though I'm healthy and in my twenties, just because of the great design and ease of use. I also bought a jar opener for my mom (who's had some pre-arthiritis in her hand) and she adores it.
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:29 PM on February 23, 2010

Get your mom knee pads. Mrs. Geezer uses them when she works on the vegetable gardens each year. Get the kind with some gel inside and Velcro straps so they are easy to put on and take off.
posted by Old Geezer at 1:32 PM on February 23, 2010

The Gordon Wrench is great for turning plumbing shutoff valves, which are always stuck because no one's turned them in like 15 years. I don't do plumbing projects, but sometimes I really need to be able to just shut off the water.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:36 PM on February 23, 2010

Whoa! Barely posted that and got an mefi-mail from chesty_a_arthur with this brush which is in the mail now, or tomorrow, ordered immediately, then back here to find more suggestions. This mefi place just flat rocks, no way 'round it. Thank you, and thank you from my mother.

And Jessamyn, seems I learned a bit more about Google now also -- thank you; if this first one doesn't work out, I have a bit more of a sense how to find one that will.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:36 PM on February 23, 2010

What about a claw/grabber for picking up things that fall in hard to reach areas, like between clothes washers or behind couches? (Note that these vary in length and cost, so cheaper/shorter ones are available).

Here's another type of jar opener that some may find simpler to use that the top/crank type.

If gripping on small objects is a problem because of arthritis, this fatter version of the jar opener may be preferable, though I believe it's not as effective for opening the large liter plastic soda bottles (not enough leverage or gripping power close to the handle).
posted by Davenhill at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2010

If they have tinnitus (ringing in the ears), Homedics makes an alarm clock/sound machine combo that I got for my mom and she LOVES. The white noise aspect mitigates the ringing when you're trying to fall asleep. Extra cool: it displays the time on the ceiling, so you don't have to crane your neck to see what time it is when you wake up in the middle of the night.
posted by wwartorff at 3:51 PM on February 23, 2010

For easier pet care, how about a long-handled scoop for the cat box and another long-handled "pooper scooper?" Or else one or two of those Littermaid Self-Cleaning Cat Boxes to ease litter-scooping chores.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:09 PM on February 23, 2010

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