Open Thread: Senior Life Hacks

Ever have Chicken in Peanut Sauce with celery, water chestnuts…and nutmeg?


I had to add a boatload of ginger to compensate.  My dinner guest was a good sport about it. Seems I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses and I grabbed the wrong spice container.  Good thing it wasn’t cinnamon.

From now on I always make sure I wear my glasses and check what spice bottle I’m using before I grab a jar of something and sprinkle it randomly over what’s on the stove.

That got me thinking about other situations where I use technology, tools or techniques to solve the minor challenges of getting older – grip strength, for instance, or tricky eyesight.

I call them “Senior Life Hacks.

Memory Hacks 

Every time I called my cable company I had to hunt for the last bill to get my ‘special customer number” before I could break out of auto-respond hell.  I finally took some bright blue painter’s tape, wrote the number on it, and taped it to the back of my phone.  (Yep, I prefer a landline for these calls).  End of problem. I also put the pin codes for my voicemail on the back of the phones in the same way.

I also took a picture of my vaccination record and keep it on my phone for when I travel.

Where’d I put…?

I gave up on my reading glasses.  I have a pair that never leaves my bedside, another that never leaves my purse.  I’ve got one I try to keep by my desk and another by my laptop. I still lose track of my readers but I have enough backup systems that it’s not too inconvenient.

I never hunt for my keys anymore since I put a hook on the inside of my front door.  As soon as I get home, that’s where they go.  I also keep them in the same pocket of my handbag.

Stop and Look. Twice 

888 numbers vs. 800 numbers.  I thought I was dialing ConEd and got a recorded voice asking me if I was 59 and wanted to save money. (On my bill? You bet).  I got a recorded voice telling me I was eligible for a free….whaaa? Apparently scammers take the same last seven digits of utility or credit card numbers, and substitute 800 for 888 or vice versa. Now I check and dial carefully.

Look twice for spice and more: As I mentioned earlier, I always look twice with my reading glasses on  before adding a spice or herb while cooking to make sure I have the right one. I also look carefully before using any household chemicals or cleaners, and especially before using anything in a tube or a pump dispenser.  Once at the gym I almost washed my hands with the mouthwash.

Visual Aids

Headlamps: I’ve also noticed that my lighting isn’t up to the job for certain tasks…or the tasks are in places where there’s no lighting. I’m pretty handy but its tough to make a minor repair when one hand has to hold a flashlight. Any hardware store has headlamps – small LED lights mounted on an adjustable headband.  That leaves my hands free to handle a screwdriver and a screw…and since its on my head the light follows my gaze.

Front Door Motion detector lights: My hallway isn’t well lit by my front door in my building.  I got tired of squinting through the tiny keyhole and just seeing a silhouette…plus the fun of trying to put the key in the lock on the first try.  Now I have a motion detector light over my front door that improves my vision.

Improved task lighting: I’ve got a couple of small clip-on LED lights with a flexible neck for the hard to reach drawer of my desk that never seems to get enough light to see my files, and another for the inside of my stereo cabinet. I’m not risking a scratch on my vintage Marshall Tucker Band albums.

General Hacks

I’ve got a good sized wrench in my kitchen utility drawer and never have to worry about hard to open jars.

The “Accessibility” menu on my devices is my new best friend.  I make the font size bigger, the cursors bigger and a different color, the contrast sharper.  It makes a difference!

I’ve also found stickers that fit on top of a keyboard’s letters with bigger letters in higher contrast colors;  it’s easier to type even in a lower light environment.

Your turn!

How about you?  What tips and hacks do you have to make something safer, easier, more convenient?  We won’t post product endorsements or recommendations, but would love to know your personal solutions, discoveries, tweaks, or ‘inventions.”  Let us know in the comments!



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