Jim Miller, an advocate for older Americans, writes “Savvy Senior,” a weekly information column syndicated in more than 400 newspapers nationwide. Based in Norman, Oklahoma, he also offers a free senior e-news service at SavvySenior.org.
People typically don’t think about how much they use their hands until their hands get stiff and painful.
Arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other conditions can make performing everyday tasks such as turning a doorknob, fastening a button, brushing your teeth, preparing a meal or using a computer mouse difficult and painful. There are various assistive devices and other products to help ease the burden of having achy hands. Here are some of the best ones…
Dexter DuoGlide knives have soft, textured handles and curved blades that let you chop foods using a rocking motion with less hand strain. Available in six models—paring knife, utility knife, bread slicer, all-purpose knife, cook’s knife and chef’s knife. From $21.60 to $62.35. Dexter1818.com
Anolon 14-Inch French Skillet ($59.99) and Circulon 6-Quart Covered Chef Pan ($79.99) both have a large, ergonomically designed handle and a second helper handle on each pan that makes them easier to lift and move around when cooking, cleaning or serving. PotsAndPans.com
West Bend Electric Can Opener is a hands-free can opener that starts and stops automatically once you lock the can in place. A built-in magnet keeps the lid from falling in the food once open. $45.99. WestBend.com
Zim Jar Opener has a V-shaped grip that holds the lid still as you use both hands to twist open a jar or bottle. Available in wall-mounted ($18.88) and under-counter-mounted ($16.99) versions, these openers require installation. Amazon.com
Alternative: Hamilton Beach Open Ease Automatic Jar Opener is a small, battery-operated device that opens twist-lids from one to four inches in diameter at the push of a button. $10.99. Amazon.com
Good Grips Eating Utensils (fork, small spoon, teaspoon, tablespoon, soupspoon and rocker knife) are stainless steel with large, soft 1⅜-inch, nonslip grips that are easy to grasp. The fork and spoons also have a special twist built into the metal shaft that allows them to be bent to any angle for either left- or right-handed use, which helps people with limited hand-to-mouth reach. $10.95 per utensil. NCMedical.com
OXO Good Grips makes easy-to-grip cooking and baking utensils with large, soft handles. They range from spatulas and whisks to pizza wheels and ice cream scoops. Large-handled utensils spread your fingers so that they don’t close completely around the tool, which reduces hand stress and makes the utensils more comfortable to grasp. Typically from $5 to $13 per item. OXO.com
Lever faucet handles. If you have twist-handle kitchen or bathroom faucets, check the brand and then see if lever-styled replacement handles are available through the manufacturer’s website or through a home-improvement store. Lever handles provide greater leverage for easier turning. Example: Danco Decorative Lever Handle, $16.89 each at The Home Depot. If lever-style replacement handles are not available, replace your faucets with lever-handle faucets.
The following items can be found at Maddak.com…
Doorknob extenders fit over standard doorknobs, converting them into easy-to-turn door levers. $19.40 for a package of two.
Big lamp switch is a large, three-spoked knob adapter that provides better leverage for turning a lamp switch. $8.80.
Simplehuman triple wall-mount pump holds liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner and has a T-bar lever at the base of each container that you pull for one-handed dispensing. $70. Simplehuman.com
Simplehuman sensor pump is a touch-free liquid-hand-soap dispenser that sits by the kitchen or bathroom sink. Place your hand under the spout to dispense the soap automatically. $40. Simplehuman.com
Touch N Brush: The Hands-Free Toothpaste Dispenser can hold any size tube of toothpaste and attaches to the bathroom mirror or the wall with suction cups. Just touch the pump arm with your toothbrush head to get a strip of toothpaste without squeezing the tube. $9.20. Amazon.com
Oral-B and Sonicare offer a variety of electric toothbrushes with handles that are easier to hold and are wider than standard manual brushes. Prices for the Oral-B toothbrushes run between $39.99 and $169.99 (OralB.com). Sonicare toothbrushes cost between $39.95 and $189.95 (Sonicare.com).
Cheaper alternative: Foam tubing can be cut down to size and fit onto your toothbrush handle to create a large, soft handgrip. This also can be used on eating utensils, pens and pencils. Available in ¼-inch, ⅜-inch and 1⅛-inch widths, this tubing is slip-resistant and does not absorb water. $13.25. Maddak.com
Philips Sonicare AirFloss cleans between your teeth by shooting microbursts of air and water droplets, eliminating the need for string floss. $169.95. Sonicare.com
Button Hook Zipper Pull is a rubber-grip hand tool with a four-inch-long wire-hook buttoning aid at one end for fastening and unfastening buttons and a brass hook at the other end for pulling zipper tabs. $11.99. EasyComforts.com
Zipper pulls are three-inch-long polypropylene pulls that attach to zipper tabs, making them easier to grasp. $4.99 for a set of 12 in assorted colors. EasyComforts.com
Lock Laces are elastic shoelaces that convert lace-ups into slip-ons. To ensure a good fit, they include a spring-activated locking device that can tighten and loosen the shoelaces. Available in a variety of colors for $7.99 or $9.99 per pair. LockLaces.com
These are available at Amazon.com…
Car key turner (around $6) is a curved, five-inch-long plastic handle that attaches to the key to provide leverage.
Kinsman gas cap removal tool ($22.89) works like a wrench and fits most gas caps.
Steering Wheel Cover ($10 to $15) fits over the steering wheel to make the wheel larger in size and easier to grip. There are numerous options, including heated versions.
For book readers, electronic e-readers are ideal because they’re lightweight and easier to hold than regular books and don’t require traditional page turning. But if you like paper publications, there are bookholders such as Levō Book Holder Floor Stand ($169) and Corner Table Clamp Book Holder ($99) that hold hardcovers, paperbacks, magazines and cookbooks in any position. Levō also offers holders for e-readers and tablet computers that cost between $99.99 and $229.99. BookHolder.com
The Pencil Grip is a small rubber grip that fits on pencils and pens to make holding easier and reduce hand fatigue. $1.79. ThePencilGrip.com
Pen Again is a Y-shaped pen that cradles your index finger to relieve hand stress when writing. $4.99. PenAgain.net
3M Ergonomic Mouse has a vertical-grip handle design that keeps your arm in a more neutral position to reduce wrist and hand stress when using a computer. $58.57. Amazon.com
Contour RollerMouse sits directly in front of the computer keyboard, giving you the ability to control the cursor with your fingertips, eliminating the reaching and gripping of a traditional mouse. $199.95 to $265. RollerMouse.com