Aging in Place at Home: The Definitive Guide Part 13


< Previous page

Next page >


Yardwork

Yard Work Banner

Gardening and landscaping can be a huge part of home maintenance, especially with large yards or elaborate gardens. Those who have experienced declines in balance, range of motion, dexterity, stamina, and muscle tone will find it hard to exercise their green thumbs.

Working low to the ground, manipulating garden tools, navigating uneven terrain, and enduring the elements can pose too great a trial for Seniors. Consider introducing the following solutions that can make gardening possible again.


Adaptive handle for garden tools


Purpose

Standard garden tools feature straight handles that place the functioning fulcrum at the user’s wrist. The aging process deteriorates the integrity and flexibility of joints to the point that using conventional garden tools is too much for older hands and wrists.

Arm strength vs wrist strength

Adaptive handles for garden tools reposition the handle so that the wrist is supported by the arm and the elbow becomes the new fulcrum. Adaptive handles help generate more strength and redistribute stress away from the wrist.

Use adaptive handles on yard tools so those with hand and wrist weakness can enjoy gardening again.


Must-have Features

Flexible attachment bands – An adaptive handle should have flexible attachment bands that strap onto the garden tool’s existing handle.

Adaptive handle with flexible bands

Flexible bands are able to independently adjust to the size and shape of the garden tool handle, ensuring a secure attachment even if the garden tool’s handle is oddly shaped.


Adaptive handle for gardening toolNon-slip grip – The adaptive handle must have a non-slip grip that decreases the chances of accidentally dropping the garden tool.

Look for a grip that is effective even when wet since sweat and water from the garden hose are both very probable factors.


Features to consider

Adapted garden tools with arm support cuff – There are garden tools available that already feature a built-in adapted handle. These adapted tools can be attached to an arm support cuff that wraps around the forearm and gives users even more leverage.

Garden tool with adapted handle
Adapted handle support cuff
Garden tool with adapted handle and support cuff

This arm support cuff allows users to derive strength from their arm to assist with lifting and repositioning the tool.


Features to avoid

Fixed-shape attachment – Adaptive handles with an attachment section that has a fixed shape are only compatible with garden tools that have a matching handle shape.

Fixed-shape garden tool grip attachment

The versatility of such adaptive handles is limited because they may not securely fit onto certain garden tools. To avoid this problem of incompatibility, do not purchase adaptive handles with a fixed-shaped attachment portion; stick to adaptive handles with flexible attachment bands.


What to know before buying

Users should consider attaching two adaptive handles onto full-length tools that require both hands like shovels and hoes.

The adaptive handles harness the strength and support of the user’s arms, reducing stress on the wrists and making the tool easier to utilize.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Electric handheld leaf blower


Purpose

Raking leaves is a full-body workout that requires strength, balance, and endurance. Rather than gathering leaves the hard way, users should work smart and take advantage of an electric handheld leaf blower.

Leaf blowers can clean up a yard faster than raking and at a fraction of the effort. Tackling leaves with an electric handheld leaf blower helps users stay actively involved in their yardwork without tiring themselves out.


Must-have Features

Lightweight – Look for a leaf blower that is 8 pounds. or less to make the job less taxing. The biggest drawback to lightweight models, though, is that they tend to be less powerful than their heavier counterparts. This reduction in power may actually result in more time spent sweeping the leaves.

Therefore, it may be better to opt for a slightly heavier model that’s more powerful and can sweep the leaves more quickly, if the user can handle the extra weight. Whatever the weight of the leaf blower, ensure it is light enough for the user to carry and direct without quickly tiring.


Bottom-mounted air intake – Air intake on the side of the leaf blower can pull on clothing, which is both distracting and uncomfortable. For less sure-footed users, this sort of disruption can be enough to cause imbalance that could lead to a detrimental fall.

Leaf blower with bottom air intake

Make sure to find a blower that takes in air from the bottom of the unit.


Double hand grip – The leaf blower should have grips for both hands to make carrying and directing easier. Using two hands to operate the leaf blower can really help conserve energy.

Leaf blower with double hand grip


Features to consider

Nozzle design – Generally, there are two options when selecting a nozzle: flat and round. Flat nozzle tips are best for sweeping loose leaves quickly, while round nozzle tips are ideal for loosening leaves that are stuck in the grass.

Leaf blower with flat nozzle
Leaf blower with round nozzle

In many cases leaf blowers come with both nozzles, and, if not, the other nozzle can usually be purchased separately.


Multiple speed options – Leaf blowers with multiples speed options allow users to choose from a few different blowing speeds. Higher speeds are good for sweeping open areas while lower speeds are ideal for sweeping around fragile plants.


Features to avoid

Bulky leaf blowers – Obviously, particularly heavy leaf blowers are undesirable, but leaf blowers that are bulky, not just heavy, should also be avoided. Oversized leaf blowers can be awkward to use and difficult to direct. Find a streamlined model that is both lightweight and easy to maneuver.


Vacuum function – Many leaf blowers have a vacuum function to draw up leaves into an attached canvas bag. As compelling as this feature may be, its use is truly predicated on the user’s ability to haul the accompanying leaf bag.

The weight of the bag itself along with the weight of the leaves is most likely too much of a load for most users, therefore it is best to forego trying to make use of this feature.


What to know before buying

Lugging around a leaf blower, even a lighter model, can be physically draining. If sweeping the entire yard is too tall a task, consider spreading the work out over several days.

Divide the yard into quadrants and tackle them one at a time rather than risking injury from trying to accomplish too much in one outing.


Electric leaf blowers must be plugged in to operate. Make sure there is an outlet to service the areas of the yard where the leaf blower will be used. Also, verify that the extension cord length will give enough distance to reach all parts of the yard. Extension cords in lengths up to 100 feet are available at local hardware stores.

When purchasing extension cords for leaf blowers, be sure to find a cord that will safely accommodate the amperage of the blower. Failing to use a properly rated extension cord could result in damaging the leaf blower and even injury from electrical shock.


Large yards with portions outside the reach of an extension cord require heavier duty equipment that is neither economically nor physically suitable for most users. If such is the case, then consider outsourcing the labor.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Extendable-reach pruner


Purpose

Keeping trees, bushes, and other yard plants tidy becomes increasingly challenging with age. Climbing up small ladders to prune tree limbs is a fall risk for those with poor balance, and stooping down to shape a small shrub is too difficult due to back problems. An extendable-reach pruner is the perfect tool to save users’ knees and backs by giving them a little extra reach for light-duty pruning.

Extendable pruner


Must-have Features

User-friendly length adjustment – Adjusting the length of the pruner should be as simple as pressing a button and sliding out the telescopic shaft. The pruner should have automatic locking points to secure the extended pole.

The most versatile adjustable-length pruner starts at four feet long and can extend up to seven feet long. If users need to access the end of a pruner, a length range of four to seven feet guarantees that virtually any person can reach the blades with the pruner standing upright on the ground.

Extendable pruner length

A pruner that is shorter than four feet may not have enough length to be useful and a pruner that is longer than seven feet may be too awkward to handle.


Extendable pruner handleEasy-squeeze handle – The handle that activates the clipping shears at the end of the pruner pole should be easy to hold onto and squeeze.

Also, those with small hands and recalcitrant fingers should make sure the handle isn’t too large to get a grip around.


Non-slip grip – The handle should be made of a non-slip material that helps users keep hold of the pruner. Look for a non-slip finish on the outside of the handle as well as on the inside along the squeeze trigger.


Lightweight – The extendable-reach pruner absolutely must be lightweight and easy for users to handle. Pruners made of plastic and aluminum tend to be light yet durable. The pruner should weigh no more than 5 pounds.


Extendable pruner cutting capacityAdequate cutting capacity – In most applications, a ½ inch diameter cutting capacity is more than suitable. Pruners with a greater cutting capacity require more hand strength to squeeze the trigger, and most users are not able to muster up the necessary strength.

Users who need to cut thicker branches should consider hiring a professional landscaper.


Non-stick blades – The pruner blades should be treated with a non-stick coating to prevent the blades from getting stuck together after making a cut. Tree sap and other contaminants from plants can quickly clog up blades that lack a non-stick finish.

Although non-stick blades still need to be cleaned periodically, they are much more resilient and can go longer between cleanings compared to other blades.


Features to consider

Cut and hold – Pruners with a cut and hold feature have special shears that hold onto a limb after it has been cut.

This allows users to retrieve the cut limb more easily than having to pick it up off the ground with a grabber tool.

Consider a long-reach pruner with a cut and hold feature to expedite the pruning process and save energy.

Extendable pruner with cut and hold feature


Features to avoid

External rope pull – Avoid pruners with an external rope pull because this rope can get stuck on branches and leaves when trying to maneuver the pruner to the correct position.

Extendable pruner with external rope pull

Stick to pruners that have the action mechanism built into the pole shaft.


What to know before buying

Extendable-reach pruners require users to hold the tool with both hands: one at the squeeze handle and the other along the shaft for support. Those who prefer an upright grip for the supporting hand should consider attaching an adaptive handle to the pruner for a more user-friendly experience.


Limbs that are either out of reach or too thick for an extendable-reach pruner should be left to the professionals.

Users should never get on a ladder or step stool outside to cut down tree branches. Users could lose balance or the ladder could slip out from under them. Limbs that are thicker than the light-duty pruner’s cut capacity must be severed with more powerful pruning tools that are too much to handle for most users.

Bring in a tradesperson to tackle the heavy-duty and far away pruning.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Lightweight water hose


Purpose

Super slim lightweight hoseRun-of-the-mill water hoses are heavy and hard to manage. Older adults who regularly to water their garden plants can do themselves a favor by using a slim, lightweight water hose.

Switching to a lightweight water hose can help users conserve energy and make watering easier.


Must-have Features

Hose kink guardsKink guards – Both ends of the lightweight water hose must have kink guards attached to the fittings. Kink guards are usually made of metal or plastic and wrap around the ends of the hose to prevent the hose from bending and kinking while in use.

The ends of the hose are notorious for kinking, so make sure to buy a lightweight hose that has kink guards.


Toxin free – Find a lightweight water hose that does not leach toxins, such as lead and B.P.A., into the water. A hose that meets the National Sanitation Foundation (N.S.F.) standards for drinking-water is a good indicator that the hose is safe to use.


Features to consider

Coiled – coiled hoses offer easy storage when the hose is retracted and don’t require a lot of effort to wrangle since they coil up naturally. There are a few things to keep in mind regarding coiled hoses, though.

Coil hoseFirst, they tend to have a weaker water flow, so if a lot of watering is necessary then a coiled hose may have users waiting a while longer than is preferred.

Second, the hose can get caught on things since it always retains at least somewhat of a coiled shape.

The tight coils also keep the hose from expanding to its full length, so users may want to purchase a hose that is several feet longer than the distance it must cover.

Coiled hoses are best for straight shots within close proximity of the spigot.


Features to avoid

Fabric, expanding hose – The goal of expanding hoses made of fabric is to significantly reduce the weight of the hose and make watering easier on users. While fabric, expanding hoses are certainly lighter, they have two drawbacks that reduce their value.

First, the hose is prone to kinking as it expands, which can be a nuisance to users.

Expanding fabric hose

Second, and more importantly, the fabric material is not very not durable. The hose is known to tear and the fittings on the ends can come loose, making the hose useless.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


< Previous pageNext page >