There is no single source on good ergonomics for seniors in their homes. I tried to do some serious research on what the most common mistakes older folks make that lead to injury at home. Ergonomics is a scholarly field and there are pdfs, power points and scientific abstracts about ways to impact our lives with changes in design. But what about you the contestant in this game of life- what are the best rules for you? Where do you take more chances than you need to?
Yes, you can raise toilets seats, have roll out drawers, have better arm chairs to get up and down. You can replace that tub with a walk in shower. But what do you do of your own volition to make your self at risk for injury. Here you partly have to be your own analyst/consultant. Yes, someone can come to your house and see trip hazards, poor lighting etc. But observe yourself as we play jeopardy with our selves on a daily basis.
This you will not find in in a research study. How do I think about it? What is the most risky physical behavior do you do a a regular basis? I don’t to mean shoveling tons of snow because when there are tons of snow. Nor do I mean that kayaking thing you still do. Bending, reaching, pushing and carrying weight. Most of us adjust down expectation of ourselves as we age. Having worked in job analysis and job modification for injured workers, I have seen doctor’s restriction very specific to types and levels of activity. We are not injured workers, we are aging bodies that have to make sense of our own strengths and weakness.
Do you impose your own restrictions? I used to lift 40 lb now I have put myself back to 20 lbs. I would get on a regular 8 foot ladder , now I only use a step ladder that is 4ft high with a support bar. I used to have one of those fancy pull out spice cabinets now I am happy to just lay my spices flat in a top drawer( on some bubble wrap) and it is so much easier to see and retrieve.
After years of dragging laundry down stairs to the back of the basement, our new house has laundry on the main level. Yeah! The newer machines have many fancy functions including making fancy tunes when it is done. But the thing that puts me at risk right now is bending, reaching and twisting inside the washer to grab the clothes that have plastered themselves to walls after spinning. I can use a back scratcher or some other tool to retrieve those socks etc , but we have decided to build or buy risers to put the washer and dryer up another 18 inches. It might make a real difference now and years from now for us.
So quiz yourself. Watch yourself- know those awkward or painful moments when you are doing too much or something the hard way. Consult a PT or OT if you can.
This is a good space to use that wonderful word…. be proactive. The prize you win may be your own independence. I would be grateful if others would share their most physically challenging activities and what they could do about it.