Ergonomic light switch replacement Suggestions?
December 30, 2005 6:38 PM   Subscribe

I have elderly relatives who no longer can turn or twist the normal switch on a table lamp or touchier lamp. I am looking for an easy ergonomic solution that will allow them to be able to simply turn lamps on and off. I remember recently seeing a replacement switch knob that was designed with 3 flat blades that protruded from the center of the knob; somewhat like the shape of a modern windmill blades. I would appreciate any and all ideas and hints.
posted by muse to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Get them a touch control.
posted by kcm at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2005

Well, not exactly inexpensive, but what about switching all the lamps to touch lamps... (with three-way bulbs you touch the base once, brighter light, touch it again, brighter again etc, touch it again, turns off).

Also, don't rule out the clapper... my sister bought it for me years ago as a gag gift, but it's the best thing for the Xmas tree lights.
posted by jerryg99 at 6:46 PM on December 30, 2005

Actually, the coolest thing I've seen were 3-way lamps that had touch sensitive brass plates around below the bulb. You just touched it with your hand and it would cycle through the different states.

Check it:

Manufacturer list
How Stuff Works: Touch Lamp
posted by id at 6:47 PM on December 30, 2005

Clap on, clap off!

It's not a windmill, but it turns on any outlet. Like one with a lamp plugged in, for instance. And this is what it was made for -- you've never seen the ads?
posted by booksandlibretti at 6:48 PM on December 30, 2005

Synchronicity. Just last week I replaced one of those twisty inline switches with a larger rocker switch for an elderly inlaw. Something more esoteric might be slightly easier, but then again this one was good enough and took all of 10 minutes to install (and you can get it at your local hardware store). The inlaw is soooooo happy now ...
posted by intermod at 6:49 PM on December 30, 2005

There is a device that's a flat, round disk, about 1/4" high and 2" across. It's called a touch switch or a touch dimmer, and it's sold at Ace Hardware stores. It has two wires -- you plug the lamp into one, and you plug the other wire into the wall outlet. Touch it ever so lightly to turn on/off or dim/brighten the lamp.

The drawback is that it costs almost fifteen bucks.

On the plus side, it's seriously cool. Even gadget-mavens are surprised by how senstitive it is. It sits on a table, so it's easier to reach than a cord switch.
posted by wryly at 6:52 PM on December 30, 2005

Why not a pull switch with the little chain that you tug to turn the light on?
posted by duck at 7:36 PM on December 30, 2005

Scout the Xmas clearance sales for a combo foot switch / extension cord. Buy many -- they are cheap & we've found great use for them in many places.
posted by omnidrew at 9:07 PM on December 30, 2005

Dimmers/3-ways won't work with flourescent bulbs, just as a reminder.

The usual solution I see to this is to wrap a thick rubber band around the switch.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:16 PM on December 30, 2005

A tinker toy hub , the hole in the middle could be drilled out so it fits on the twisty bit of the switch.
posted by hortense at 9:33 PM on December 30, 2005

My mom has arthritis so I got her some of these triangular "lamp switch enlargers" for the lamps in her house. Worked well after I put them on for her.

My thoughts on some of the other suggestions are that pull cords, unless the lamp is rather heavy, might tip them over. A clapper would be okay if their hands are okay with clapping. I think I too would vote for a touch lamp as that seems easiest. (But if they have old favorite lamps they don't want to get rid of it's a cinch to throw the above enlarger knobs on 'em)
posted by blueberry at 9:50 PM on December 30, 2005

I can't find a link for it, but I saw a foot pedal switch at Target around Christmas time. It was sold near the Christmas lights, and marketed as an easy way to turn the lights off and on. It looks like a big button on the ground, you plug one end into the lamp and the other into the wall.
posted by hooray at 11:36 PM on December 30, 2005

Pull switch. I've never seen a lamp that was so poorly-balanced that it would fall over from having the chain pulled. The pull-switch sockets are a cheap, direct replacement for the knob-switch sockets that come on the lamps, and you can attach any length of string to make it easily reachable.

If your relatives have trouble grasping the chain or the little pull on the end of the string that attaches to the chain, tie a rubber garden-hose washer to the string.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:19 AM on December 31, 2005

I vote for the foot switch. Elderly people tend to like consistency, and you can use the foot switch for all the lamps, while you can't use the touch switch for all of them because they may not all be metal. Also, you won't have to worry about them knocking the lamp over from touching it on too hard.
posted by BrandonAbell at 11:40 AM on December 31, 2005

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