Old Doors, New Tricks
There are many things to love about growing older – you get discounts on stuff (who doesn’t love saving 5% at grocery stores or $2 off at the movie theater!); you get great service at restaurants because you’re one of the select few in there at 5 pm for dinner; and you get to spend time beautifying the garden that you worked for 50 years to be able to afford. Awesome, right?
Something not so great about aging, however, is the toll the years take on our bodies, namely the arthritis, aching muscles and joint pain that can make functioning at full capacity difficult, if not downright impossible. Indeed, as if the resulting limited mobility wasn’t bad enough, now even the doors to get in, out and about the house won’t open for us without a struggle.
Fortunately, there are ways to fight back! Here’s a bit more on how to make the doors in your home more senior-friendly, as well as “seniorizing” other elements of the house to ease the burden on the body and aid in the transition into these later years in life to ensure they are truly golden!
Twists and Turns
One of the most difficult aspects of manipulating a door is turning or twisting the knob. If your front door and your interior doors separating rooms inside your house have doorknobs, swap them out for handles.
Levers like this one are great because they satisfy the ‘form’ and ‘function’ elements of
what you need: they look like traditional door handles, only better, because there’s no twisting or turning required. They can be attached to any door where you need to push or pull.
Avoid round doorknobs that require you to enclose within your hand and twist and also avoid the types of handles that require you to push down a latch with your thumb.
And who says you have to stick with your standard door handles? Consider turning ordinary items into unexpected and creative handles like this shovel!
The sharp tip of the shovel has been nailed into the garden door which not only prevents exposing the dangerous edge, but it also creates an angle that gives leverage to pull on the door without pulling out the handle. Delightful!
Other round knobs and tiny pulls to swap out can be found attached to cabinet doors and dresser drawers – replace these with long handles or even large rings like door knockers.
Get a Grip
For sliding doors and screen doors, summoning the upper body strength to pull the doors open is sometimes tough enough for those at their peak of physical fitness but when you add those little indentations for fingers that are supposed to be “handles,” well, you can forget it!
Even if you have an actual handle on the sliding and screen doors, you may need a bit more assistance in having something to truly grip – especially if you have issues with your hands, like arthritis.
In any event, one solution is to attach a piece of rope or a thick cord to the door or handle to increase your graspable surface area as well as the leverage you need to pull the door down the track.
Along those lines, make sure the track is clean and clear of debris that could prevent you from opening the door. If the door sticks, apply a dry Teflon lubricant like Blaster Dry Lube to the track to help the door slide easier. Oils like WD-40 will attract dirt, dust and grime over time.
Get in Gear in the Garage
For those fortunate enough to have a functioning garage, there are ways to work this workspace so it works for you.
- Make sure the garage door is fully operational – one quick remedy for a dysfunctional garage door is to check the sensors located at the base of the doors on either side. If these become dislodged or knocked askew, they can cause the door to malfunction but a simple realignment may fix the problem.
- Transfer items from overhead cabinets into drawers and bins at waist level or below. Raising arms and reaching up can cause pain, discomfort and damage, so the less you have to stretch or bend over, the better.
- Grab a roll cart to help move heavier items from place to place or transfer groceries from the car into the house.
- Ramps are not only for those with wheelchairs – even low-angled thresholds in door jambs can make coming in and out of your home easier and prevent trips and spills.
*TIP: If your garage door works but your garage door opener doesn’t operate properly – and you have replaced the batteries! – it may be time to call in some outside support. Although the door handle changes mentioned above can be done by a DIY-inclined person, when it comes to garage door openers, you should probably leave this to the professionals.
Angelo DiGangi is a Home Depot “on the floor” sales associate and a regular contributor on windows and door information on Home Depot’s website.