Life & Culture

Open Thread Update: Senior Life Hacks

Senior man using laptop, close-up

It looks like older people are the original ‘hackers,” using their ingenuity to solve issues in products that were clearly not designed with aging in mind.

Our commenters stepped up and shared their quick fixes and shortcuts. One of my pet peeves (jars that won’t open) was solved by Suz, who uses rubber bands on the lids  – a lot easier that using a wrench!

Get hip….bags

However, the biggest category of solutions addressed a problem I haven’t yet considered – heavy bags and purses.

I sometimes look like I need a sherpa to handle the wallet, makeup, ID, keys, tissues, hand sanitizer, reading material, notebooks and other items that litter the inside of my big shoulder bag like mulch.

At least five women have sidestepped all that – with a child-size backpack, a fanny back, a belly bag or waist pack, or a smaller wallet instead of a purse. Most cited health reasons for the switch, but one reader had a more compelling rationale:

“My hip bag works best for me…I would also not feel safe walking around with my valuables… (wallet, keys, phone) where someone could grab it…And it is not really visible when it is around my waist. And if someone tried to grab it from the front, I could knee or kick them.”

Susan Nehez 

You GO, girl.

The all-time winner

Kudos for Reader Mona Lisa, who offered several excellent tips, including a brilliant solution to the laundry day problem of wrestling a fitted bottom sheet off a big mattress.  I’ll leave it to you to read through for her mattress hack, and all the others…and leave this thread open for a while to get even more Senior Life Hacks.

Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send your suggestions for Open Threads to her at




32 responses to “Open Thread Update: Senior Life Hacks

  1. When I go for a walk, I put my driver’s license, health insurance cards, one credit card and an emergency $20 bill in a business card holder. It fits in my pocket or small wallet that doubles as a waist bag. I can fit my cell phone and keys in the side pocket of the bag or in my jacket pocket. I find it easy to have these cards handy when I go to the doctor and to transfer to a larger bag for other outings.

  2. All great suggestions. Something we all need to be aware of…if I have to take over for someone who cannot manage their day to day life (even for a short time…illness, accident, stroke) where do I find everything. Records, documents, contacts, prescriptions, automatic payments, spare keys, medical records. What if I am the one that needs support? Where is Everything?
    Here are several systems to address the situation. AARP “Checklist for My Family”, thesurvivorsguide,, Great peace of mind for an individual and spouse/family.

  3. Since I usually only need a credit card/debit card when I shop, I made a card wallet which I put in my larger wallet. I take it with me instead of taking my purse to shop. Having the wallet stops the card from “slipping accidentally” out of your pocket.

  4. I’m sorry I can’t offer any up-dated tips for now, however, I absolutely love having a column like this one. The best tips come from those who are experiencing the same things most of us over 60, 70, 80 and beyond are struggling with on a daily basis.

  5. I can’t believe bo one’s mentioned zippers in the back of dresses.
    I have to be a contortionist. And forget all those lovely bracelets and necklaces that need the skill of a surgeon to use the clasps…

    1. I bought magnetic closer clasps for my necklaces. You can get them silver, gold, bling, etc. I have them on every single one that can’t go over my head.

      Also, there is actually a bracelet helper that I purchased also. I think I got both of these items from catalogs, but I’ll bet you could find them online easily.

    2. If the zipper has a hole in it, you can slip one end of a paper clip through that.. then use string or rope through the other end of the paper clip and pull up/down with that! Voila! .. I recently saw a video about using an open paper clip to grab onto one end of your bracelet. Hold the paper clip with bracelet attached in one hand while you use your other hand to wrap the other end of the bracelet around your wrist & fasten it to the end held by the paperclip. Then remove your paper clip and voila! Hope this helps!

  6. Hi–Living “Mindfully” helps with a lot of senior moments AND helps you live longer & better. Good book is Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners, complete w/a CD w/guided meditations. You can get it on I’m not a seller, just a former teacher who likes to share good stuff.
    Other hacks: “Ring” doorbell/camera (; setting an alarm on your phone to take a pill; making sure you have your phone, med info jewelry on & water when you go on daily walks.

    1. I set my phone for all my meds, Dr. appts and bus pick up times. Also, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Full Catastrophe Living” is another great read! Thank you Linda for all those helpful tips!

  7. I just thought of another tip which was a huge help though a bit pricey. I live alone and cook for one, and I enjoy food preparation, but lately I found using the manual grater for cheese, potatoes, etc., was starting to cause injury with scraped knuckles, etc. So I waited for a big sale and finally invested in an 11-cup food processor (Kitchenaid in my case) to not have to struggle so much with that. Once a week or so I buy all my vegetables and do all the onions, salad and pizza fixings, prep for fridge and freezer, etc., in one go to make life easier plus I am more tempted to eat my veggies when I don’t feel like doing the prep work with a knife. It was pricey but worth it. I also bought a Vitamix on sale a few years ago to ensure I am able to make healthy soups from scratch and whatever else e.g., smoothies, etc., for myself. I have no kids or grandkids around to help with stuff like that. I don’t use a microwave oddly enough as I still enjoy the process of cooking and preparing meals for myself. But really, investing in high quality gadgets sometimes are worth the money to help make life easier and in this case, healthier, too.

  8. I am so glad you asked! I was just thinking how to share this great tip I came up with (sorry, I hate the word “hack”!). As a single female senior with somewhat diminishing strength, I found it almost impossible on laundry day to change the fitted sheet on my HUGE queen-size 16″ deep Temperpedic bed which weighs a TON!

    I finally decided I had had it with the grunting, the swearing and the groaning never mind the constant risk of hurting myself having to get those deep pocket fitted corners tucked in properly when changing the fitted sheets by myself, as it entailed lifting the corners of the bed and it was just too hard to keep doing that by myself. TIP: I went out and bought a few TWIN size flat sheets in the same colours I had already to match my regular queen size sets, and while I have a nice, clean fitted sheet on the bed now (over the mattress liner), I now just lay a twin flat sheet on top of the fitted sheet and I sleep on top of that. The smaller size sheet can be quickly removed and washed and replaced, without all the struggle and the blue language! In the summer, I use two to sleep on thanks to the night sweats, and in the past I have even used huge beach towels to sleep on when it got too hot, but I still sleep under a regular queen size flat sheet as that is easy enough to wash and replace. Problem solved!

  9. Motion sensor, battery operated, stick on wall, night lights for night wanderings (bathroom), and power outages. Great for inside dark cabinets too. If you attach loop tape or magnets to included sticky tape you can also take off wall and carry with you if power outage. Easily return to wall when finished using.
    Echo and similar devices can make phone calls by just speaking. “Alexa call” (a name from your phone contact list). Important if you fall and can’t get up to use phone. Also helpful for child or blind.

  10. If you have an Apple computer or iPad or iPhone…
    On a computer, go to System Preferences > Accessibility and explore all the change you can make to accommodate any audial or visual deficiencies you might have; there are tons of things you can do to make using your computer eaiser to use.
    On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Accessibility and do the same thing.

  11. After a torn rotator cuff and a reverse complete shoulder replacement after an accident, I quit carrying heavy purses, especially shoulder bags, and started using a hip bag (sometimes called a belly bag) that goes around my waste. Sure, I had to cut back down to carrying only the essentials (a smaller wallet, mobile phone, a small hand sanitizer and a small tissue pack plus my keys) but it has been worth it–no more wondering where to put my purse while eating in a restaurant, no more leaving my purse in a grocery cart, no more concern about someone grabbing my purse while walking down a street and no more sore shoulders. Cute “hip bags” have been hard to find, but it has been fun searching for them in stores and on-line, I have a pretty good collection of them, and they often are on sale.

    1. Would a very light backpack be something you could benefit from rather than what we here in Canada call a “bum bag”? I invested in a child’s weight backpack because my adult one for my daily use became too heavy. I still work and walk the 5 miles back and forth each day to get there and back as my only exercise, and what a difference it made! I could carry my essentials as well as my water bottle and lunch with very little stress on my shoulders. I ordered a children’s large backpack from (I order all my clothes from them, too!) when it was on sale. It weights next to nothing and it is a quality product.

      1. My hip bag works best for me because a backpack would put a strain on my replaced shoulder. I would also not feel safe walking around with my valuables (wallet, keys, phone) where someone could grab it. And it is not really visible when it is around my waist. And if someone tried to grab it from the front, I could knee or kick them.

      1. My husband uses a frame walker as recommended by both physical and occupational therapists. He will not stand erect using either a rollator or a frame. The possibility of losing control and falling face down is greater with the Rollator.

  12. To compensate for my diminishing vision, I invested in a backlit keyboard and a large screen computer. For those tiny print prescription drug labels and settings on kitchen appliances I keep a magnifying glass with a built-in LED light handy. For memory lapses, I find my cell phone calendar and alarm and timer features more and more helpful. Then of course there are the low-tech solutions like Post-It reminders that can be stuck where I can’t miss them!

    1. Cassie, where do you buy the magnetic closures? Do you have your jeweler make the switch, or do you do it yourself? I sometimes use a claw extender purchased from one of make the large custom jewelry companies to make smaller connectors less daunting. They come in different designs; I chose a flower motif and it’s rather cute.

      1. O0ps. I made a typo I didn’t see first time around and couldn’t correct. I meant to say “purchased from one of the large” etc.

      2. I am a senior with ADD. If you are senior forgetful and ADD disorganized, try this:

        Recently I purchased a little waist pack, with 2 short plus 2 long compartments. I wear it daily. It holds things like keys, cell phone, money and credit card..,there’s an extra pr. of eye glasses, I would add them.

        Before I got my waist pack, I raced around trying to gather things. I tried sticking them on a shelf or in a backpack. It doesn’t work for me (I don’t have control over my things that way.

        There’s much more: I always use the waist pack daily at home. Every day I add ‘found’ items in the waist pack, e.g. the extra cell phone, hiding under folded laundry. I pick up ‘missing’ hearing aids; in they go to the waist pack. I don’t touch them again till eventually placing them in their holder in the top drawer. Otherwise I would probably put them down somewhere else again…eg. on a kitchen counter, as I get a glass of water from the fridge, when simultaneously the phone starts ringing.

        When I need something for the day, I add it to my waist pack, e.g. my senior Subway discount card.

        This works for me. It is comfortable. I take my shopping satchel , containing face mask and sanitizer, off the inside door knob and off I go on time.

      3. They attach really easily. You can do it yourself. They are available all over the internet. Quite inexpensive, as well. Should take you all of five minutes to do all your necklaces.

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