Photo supplied
SURROUND SOUND: Whole house music systems, or multi-zone stereo systems, are becoming more popular in the home and garden.
Photo supplied SURROUND SOUND: Whole house music systems, or multi-zone stereo systems, are becoming more popular in the home and garden.

As you get older, it’s the little chores that will get you.

Peeling potatoes and opening jars are likely to leave you with those funny little muscle cramps or chafed skin.

But home gadget designs to make things easier are flying off the shelves. 

Designers are constantly trying to come up with effective, stylish and easy-to-use gadgets for the kitchen, garden, home maintenance or health-related items.

Ergonomic, you might say, and they’re becoming the trend for the kitchen and throughout the home. 

This is great news for those of us who are getting a little older and who are finding that what was once a simple task has become a real challenge.

Typically I buy a gadget because it will help to make work easier but sometimes, making the gadget work properly becomes work in itself. 

As we get older it can get harder to do simple but necessary tasks like opening cans and jars, peeling vegetables and even opening a door. 

Companies like OXO and Zyliss have become innovators in making gadgets for the kitchen that are easy to use and get the job done. 

The handles are easier to grip because they are bigger, made from non-slip materials and are very comfortable to hold.  

There are wonderful vegetable peelers available with angled, ergonomic handles that reduce the strain on hands and wrists, and the grips are made of non-slip plastic. 

An automatic jar opener is a useful kitchen gadget to have for arthritis sufferers or anyone else who has trouble opening any type of jar, from apple sauce to dill pickles. No strength is required. The gadget opens jars by use of a single button.

Magnet fasteners

Turning small objects around the house can be a problem for many people.  A key turner will provide the leverage that you need to easily turn a key in a lock. 

Your key fits into the key turner and the key folds into the handle when not in use.

Lamp switches are another thing that it can be difficult to grip. The small and tiny ridges on them hardly provide any grip at all. 

Lamp switch enlargers will make it easy for anyone to turn lights off and on. 

They fit over the existing small switch to enlarge it and give it a shape and size that is much easier to grip and to turn. 

There are similar devices that fit over door knobs as well to make them easier to turn too.

Fastening jewellery can be frustrating for anyone.  Adding magnet fasteners for your necklaces is the way to go if you have trouble fastening those little tiny clasps. 

Simply fasten the magnetic clasp onto the existing clasp and the problem is solved. Easy on and easy off.

 Expandable cordless phone sets are great for your home. They come with a main phone base and up to five remote phones. 

They can be placed strategically throughout your home, and make it easier to hear and reach a ringing telephone.

Rushing to answer the phone can result in trips and falls for even the most able-bodied. 

For seniors it means that a phone will always be close by if they need to call for help.

Large Button Universal Remote controls are great.  There is one available that features an easy-to-grasp ‘T’ shape, lighted keypad, with large buttons and bold, easy-to-read characters.

And best of all, it retains its code information when you change the batteries.

Have you ever had a scald because the tap water was hotter than you thought?  Anti-Scalding Devices, also known as a Temperature Activated Flow Reducers (TAFR) are great gadgets for anyone who has lost the ability to tell when the water is too hot.

They’ll be no more accidental burns when installed in the bathroom and kitchen sinks and in the shower.

This device automatically turns off the water flow when the water temperature gets too hot.  They are great for child safety as well.

An electric tea kettle with automatic shut-off will boil water quickly and safely. Boiling water on a stove or using a microwave to heat water for a cup of tea, oatmeal, or soup can be dangerous for seniors, especially if their hands shake or if they forget they turned the stove on.

An electric tea kettle sits on the counter, plugs into an outlet, stays cool to the touch, and shuts off automatically when the water reaches the proper temperature. 

Music in the home

Whole house music systems, also known as multi-zone stereo systems, are becoming very popular in new homes and renovations.

There are several ways to distribute music throughout your home — wired and wireless, powered and non-powered. 

You can use your stereo receiver or a home theatre receiver as the centre of your system, or install a dedicated multi-room music system.

Wireless multi-room music systems are quickly catching up to wired systems in terms of sound quality, control and flexibility.

Installation is considerably easier because no additional wiring is required between rooms. However, if you’re starting installation with new construction, a wired system may be the best solution because audio, video and network wiring can be installed easily before the walls are in place.  

To plan a whole house audio or multi-room music system, first consider the number of rooms or zones.

A simple two-room system can be installed using the Speaker B switch on your receiver and an additional pair of speakers.

Some AV receivers have multi-room features to control as many as four zones.

Larger systems require additional hardware, speakers, planning and labour. The most challenging part of installing a multi-room system is running wires from one zone to another and often requires a professional installer.

How many sources will you need? This is a key question.

Do you want to listen to the same source in each zone (example: CD) or would you prefer different sources in each zone (example: CD in the den and FM radio in a bedroom).

A multisource system is usually preferred because it allows each person to listen to the music of his or her choice in each zone.   

Make a list of the sources you want to include, such as CD, AM/FM tuner, satellite radio, computer audio or music server, tape, etc. Additional sources add to the complexity and cost of the system. 

You have two choices of speaker installations. You can choose to have them built right into the walls or in the ceiling, or you can have bookshelf speakers or wall hung.

In-wall and in-ceiling speakers are often preferred because they virtually disappear in the wall, especially when the grilles are painted to match the room décor or mudded into the ceiling.

They do require more installation than a bookshelf speaker and careful consideration should be given to placement and running speaker wires behind the walls. 

The advantage of bookshelf speakers is flexibility of placement and speakers can be replaced or upgraded easily.

Programming a system for easy operation and installing keypad controls in each room are jobs best left to an installation professional with the right tools and knowledge.

Michele D Smith is managing director of OBM  International/Bermuda. Contact 278-3550.