Ergonomics Help Elderly Age in Place

Ergonomics Help Elderly Age in Place

Certified Aging in Place Specialists and product designers are developing ergonomically designed homes and appliances that will allow the 78 million aging U.S. baby boomers to �age in place� (live independently in their own homes for longer periods of time) rather than moving to retirement communities or assisted living facilities.

Mark Baskinger has been working with GE Appliances on developing a line of products that will make daily activities easier to perform for the elderly. "The key in designing products for the aging population is to make things extremely usable, readable and accessible."

A recent article published by the Wall Street Journal expands on this theme. New technology is enabling manufacturers of appliances and bath fixtures to design for the senior surge (Designing for the Senior Surge � Makers of Appliances, Bath Fixtures Target Aging Boomers; Cooking for the Forgetful; April 25th, 2008; Sara Lin).

To simulate some of the disabilities typically associated with aging, product evaluation may require testers to plug their ears with cotton to simulate hearing loss, wear goggles that blur their vision to simulate visual loss, and use gloves to impede coordination and sensation to simulate arthritic joint changes or nerve damage.

Traditional changes in home construction to accommodate seniors and those with disabilities have included:

  • The use of grab bars and wheelchair ramps.

  • Wider halls and doorways that accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.

  • Placing master suites and laundry facilities on the ground floor so that stairs are avoided.

Newly designed ergonomic products and appliances for seniors include:

  • Electronic panel displays that have adjustable font sizes and color-contrast options.

  • Volume control for alarms on ovens.

  • Motion sensors that turn on night lights.

  • A toilet with an electric blue night light and a motorized seat and cover that rise with the touch of a button.

  • Placing controls at the front of appliances rather than at the back for easier access.

  • Replacing knobs with levers that are easier to operate.

  • A faucet that turns on when it is tapped.

  • Dishwashers, ovens and refrigerators that are designed to place frequently used shelves and items within easy reach to eliminate the need for excessive bending.

  • Sensors that activate an alarm if cooking food becomes too hot, if the stove is left on, or if a faucet is left running.


The Aging Workforce - Ergonomic Accommodations Benefit Experienced Employees

The Aging Workforce - Ergonomic Recommendations

The Aging Workforce - Physical Changes Require Ergonomic Intervention


Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.

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