Doing the laundry is no simple job for those who have experienced many of the ill effects of aging. Carrying baskets back and forth is too exhausting for thinning muscles and bones. Lifting piles of wet clothes out of the washing machine is too painful for weakened hands.
Consider how the solutions included below can empower older adults to perform laundry tasks again.
Front-loading washer and dryer
Top-loading washers and dryers require users to reach down into the machine drums to lift clothes in and out when doing laundry. The affects that the aging process has on a user’s flexibility, range of motion, and strength makes top-loading machines very difficult to use.
Front-loading washers and dryers that are raised to a comfortable height can considerably reduce the amount of bending and stretching that users must endure to run a load of laundry.
Fuel-type compatibility – When replacing a set of laundry machines, check to see whether they are powered by electricity or natural gas. Make sure to buy a washer and dryer that accept the existing fuel type in the home.
Appropriate capacity – Those who live in a full house need machines with a large capacity while those who only have one companion or live alone can settle on more streamlined machines with smaller capacities.
Generally, the capacity of a machine directly correlates to its overall size and price. Users who have a tight laundry area may need to find machines with smaller capacities in order to fit them in the space.
Pedestal drawers are typically 10 to 15 inches tall, propping up a machine’s front-loading door to a height that is much more convenient for users.
Before buying a new front-loading washer and dryer, verify that the pedestal drawers lift the door to a height that is easily accessible for the user.
Stainless steel drum – Stainless steel drums are more durable than porcelain and plastic drums. Stainless steel is the least likely to chip, rust, stain, and absorb odors.
The best option for longevity is stainless steel.
Features to consider
ENERGY STAR-certified – Washers and dryers that are ENERGY STAR-certified consume less energy than typical laundry machines and can save users money in utility bills.
Those who are retired and on a fixed income can benefit from keeping energy costs low.
Allergy cycle settings – Users who experience asthma and other allergy-related symptoms should consider buying machines that feature special allergy cycles that greatly reduce allergens on clothes and fabrics.
Many washers and dryers across all price points include an allergy cycle, so users don’t really have to pay more for this feature.
Features to avoid
Untested technology – Users who like having products with the latest technology should think twice when it comes to washers and dryers.
The performance of laundry machines can be very finicky and changes to the way the machines operate, even if the change is seen as an upgrade to newer technology, still may inadvertently backfire.
It is best to let the marketplace test out machines that feature new technology and give manufacturers time to refine the laundry machines with later models; don’t be an early adopter for the latest washer and dryer only to have those machines fail prematurely.
What to know before buying
Always verify that the washing machine and dryer can fit in the intended space. Use the following dimensions as a guide for space planning:
- There should be 1 to 3 inches of width on the sides and between the appliances for air circulation.
- Vents and cords need 4 to 6 inches of space behind the machines.
- If the laundry area is enclosed, then account for 21 to 25 inches of space in front of the machines for the door swing.
Make sure that the path to bring the machines through the home to their intended locations is accessible and that there aren’t any corridors or turns that block the route.
Typically every manufacturer offers a warranty on its machines, but some are better than others. Look for companies that have reliable products and extend long warranties on key parts of the machine like the tub and the motor.
Those who might be concerned that front-loading machines may still not offer enough relief when it comes to loading and unloading clothes should consider using a grabber tool to help with transferring items from one machine to the other.
A grabber tool can be particularly useful with picking up damp clothes that are much heavier and harder to grasp after a washing cycle.
Recommended supplementary products and home modifications
Wheeled laundry cart
Hauling a hamper full of clothes to and from the laundry machines can be too heavy for many users, especially if the laundry area is a long way off from the bedroom.
If the master bedroom and the laundry area are on the same floor of the home, then a wheeled laundry cart that users can push is a much more efficient solution than carrying a weighed down laundry basket.
Heavy-duty casters – The laundry cart should have oversized, solid caster wheels that are capable of handling thick carpets and flooring transitions.
Locks on the casters that users can adjust with their feet may help the laundry cart stay in place when being stored.
Features to consider
Built-in hanging rack – Users who need to hang-dry clothing should consider finding a wheeled laundry cart with a built-in hanging rack.
Clothes that are hanging from the bar can obstruct the user’s view, so consider draping those items over the laundry bags when pushing the cart and delay hanging anything from the bar until reaching a stopping point.
Features to avoid
Dolly-style laundry cart – Avoid laundry carts that are designed like moving dollies because they are more prone to tipping over.
Losing grip of a dolly-style cart while it is in tow or accidentally bumping into it can knock it over and require users to bend down to pick it back up.
Conventional four-wheeled laundry carts are much more stable.