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THE SPECIAL YEARS : 50 AND BEYOND: THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE : Handy and Helpful : Special Products That Help Reduce the Hassle Factor of Certain Daily Tasks

May 04, 1989|ROBIN TUCKER | Tucker is a Times staff writer.

As much as we may hate to admit it, things do change along with the decades:--eyesight gets a little blurry, hearing becomes a bit fuzzy, we have trouble opening "child-proof" containers and grasping the lid of a jar. Certain daily tasks become more difficult.

To the rescue come the manufacturers of diverse household products, some made specifically for the elderly or disabled (such as keys with larger, easier-to-grasp tops or the New York Times Large-Type Weekly, a news summary printed in large type) but most simply designed to make life less of a hassle for everyone.

Sometimes all it takes is a little imagination to see how everyday items can be adapted to particular needs. We've grown used to TV and VCR remote controls, but remotes can be used to work most major appliances, lamps, even the telephone. Beepers can also be put to work at home, to signal for assistance when needed. A great source of useful ideas is "The Gadget Book: Ingenious Devices for Easier Living," edited by Dennis LaBuda (Scott, Foresman/American Assn. of Retired Persons). It's available for $9.70 (AARP members) and $12.90 (non-members) from Scott, Foresman/AARP Books, 1865 Miner St., Des Plaines, Ill. 60016.

Here are some other handy products you'll find locally:

AT&T offers a Big Button Telephone with extra-large buttons for fast, accurate dialing. The company also has a Four Number Dialer that "dials" four telephone numbers automatically with a one-touch hand command (good for important emergency numbers), and it works with rotary and touch-tone telephones and with a selection of telephone-amplilfier equipment designed for the hearing-impaired. It's available at AT&T Phone Centers. The AT&T Special Needs Center provides telecommunications products and services to people with hearing, speech, vision or motion impairments (by voice, (800)-233-1222; by TDD/TTY machine, (800)-833-3232).

The Sony Water-Resistant Cordless Telephone, specifically designed for use in the bathtub, sauna or pool--has a water-resistant seal around the phone's internal electronics. Available from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Several companies, including Sony, Panasonic and Code-A-Phone make telephone-answering machines with large, readable numbers. Available at electronics stores.

Sony also makes the My First Sony cassette players, designed for children but with large, easy-to-press buttons. Available at electronics stores.

It's not a hearing aid, but the Listenaider II can help you hear a whisper up to 25 feet away. It looks like a small radio (it fits into a pocket) with headphones, and it works by focusing ambient sounds onto a microphone and amplifying them. Available at the Sharper Image.

The Spartus Digital Alarm Clock features an extra-large digital readout and sturdy time, hour, minute, alarm and snooze buttons. Available at Adray's.

A talking clock is another answer for people with low vision. When a bar is pushed, it tells the time in simulated human speech. For more information, contact the American Foundation for the Blind, 15 W. 16th Street, New York 10011.

Solar-powered calculator pads are easy for stiff fingers to use. Each number and function has a 1/2-inch-by- 1/2-inch sensor area; it works under most household lighting. Available at Brookstone and at Crate & Barrel.

A Battery-Powered Whistle Light turns room lights on when you whistle. Available at Brookstone.

For safety in the kitchen, an electric kettle shuts itself off after the water boils. Available at Brookstone.

An all-purpose knife with a large, easy-to-grip handle makes cutting easier. Available at Brookstone.

A selection of stainless steel eating and preparation utensils with modified, built-up or extended handles can be found at most medical suppliers, such as Abbey Medical, Hawthorne.

There's a choice of magnifiers for those times when the print just isn't big enough. Brookstone offers a "page-in-a-glimpse" magnifier that's lightweight and flexible and magnifies a whole page of a standard book, and the "no-hands" magnifier, an optical grade acrylic lens that hangs from a support cord around the neck and rests on the chest, leaving the hands free. Hands-Free Personal Headlights from Hammacher Schlemmer are battery-powered lighted eyeframes that focus two beams of light onto a work area. They fit comfortably over normal eyeglass frames. The Thermostat Magnifier snaps over a round Honeywell thermostat for sharp settings, and the See-Through Window Thermometer, with its large Fahrenheit numbers, needs no adhesive or hardware to attach to the outside of a window. Both available at Brookstone.

The battery-powered Smallest Blood Pressure Monitor uses a pressure-sensing finger cuff to read blood pressure and pulse rate in less than 30 seconds. Rates are displayed alternately on a 1 3/4-inch LCD readout. Available at Hammacher Schlemmer.

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