Refrigerator design not elder-friendly

If only the designers of common appliances knew how it feels to bend and twist at age 75

Despite a fully stocked fridge, some days I risk going hungry. My leanest days are the first two or three after weekly shopping. Every fridge shelf is crammed,  blocking my view of the foods I’m hoping  to serve at my next meal and making access to them difficult. Not until the day before I shop again will the fridge be empty enough to be convenient.

The bulk of my weekly shopping consists of fresh fruits and vegetables. Both take up a lot of fridge space, unlike chips or packaged cookies which can be stored on a cupboard shelf.

Most of my fridge shelves hold double tiers – long slithery plastic cartons of raspberries balance on cartons of eggs, and smaller cartons spill out of the cheese bin. Lowest bins hold larger fruits and vegetables – oranges, carrots, yams.

Primarily, the shelves are too long from front to back. To reach the item farthest back, I must either remove everything until I reach it, or I end up squashing my cheek  against the fridge  frame as though a determined robber is tugging my arm through a knothole.

Sometimes small items such as  clear plastic  6 oz. cartons of berries disappear into tiny spaces where they are easily overlooked. During a three day visit from my sister, before every meal  I scoured the shelves for a carton of blueberries dragging everything out on to the floor. Still no sign of blueberries.

Had I bought blueberries? And did I pack them in or leave them on the cashier’s belt?

To be sure I had bought blueberries, I dug out  my cashier slip from the tissue box holding  notes destined to become  stove starters. The slip assured me I had bought blueberries. So  where were they? My I went out and rustled through my pickup in case the carton had fallen out of the shopping bag and disappeared  under a  seat. If they’d been there, they would have been frozen. But they weren’t anywhere in the truck. As I prepared  our last lunch together before I drove her to the airport I found the  blueberries under a  bag of grapes.  The carton was too shallow to suggest its presence.

Refrigerators such as mine appear to be designed by specialists who have a limited familiarity with the way  the appliance is expected to perform in  the average home. So long as they meet safety and other codes they are deemed fine. Even if the company employs focus groups – another of my doubts   — they might disregard vital suggestions as being too expensive, cutting too deep into the profit margin, or critical  to too small a customer base, like Chevrolet cancelling key locks in passenger doors of Montana pickups.

Well, those engineers may wise up when they turn 75, especially if they have to rustle up their own meals. They’ll wish they had paid more attention to the focus group’s recommendations and less to extra expense.

To simplify life for anyone with creaky joints,why aren’t fridges built with  see-through frames? One look from any angle would disclose which foods sit where. Being able to find something easily would reduce frustration and  power bills.

A welcome touch would be a fridge built on a pneumatically operated pedestal like a mechanic’s hoist. Press a button and the fridge would rise twelve inches doing away with the need of a prayer bench while delving the lowest shelves.

And circumvent overly long shelves  by installing lazy susan shelves or shelves that readily glide forward like a cabinet drawer.

Big fridges come with French doors, freezers in the bottom instead of the top, greater access to shelves. Why don’t smaller fridges provide the same conveniences?


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