Do It Yourself for Seniors
Keen do-it-yourself people generally have more time for their projects as they age. Retirement gives most people much more time to indulge their passions.
However, age also brings its own problems and a greater awareness of safety issues may prevent some minor, or major, mishaps. Having worked without incident for years can bring a familiarity and perhaps carelessness which is exacerbated by such things are less flexibility, poorer balance and failing eyesight. Essential equipment includes good safety goggles, ear plugs or muffs and a mask for use when working with chemicals or sprays. One of the newer type welding masks which automatically darken will make life a lot easier if you do a lot of welding.
Perhaps fixtures and fittings have grown old like yourself so it is a good idea to check items for wear and damage. Ladders cause many problems and should be checked carefully. The bottom step edges of an old wooden ladder may angle down and can allow the foot to slip. A wooden block can be screwed under the step to secure it. Other steps can be treated in the same way if necessary.
Any ropes which break should be replaced not just knotted. Taking a section of rope and twisting it back will reveal the inside. If it is brown and frayed, replace the whole rope. Ropes rot along the whole length and should not be simply knotted together. This goes for lashings and cords as well.
If your balance is no longer as stable as it once was and you falter going the last few rungs on a ladder, a handrail can be attached by clamping a batten onto the side of the ladder. This way there is something to hold if you need to go that one rung more.
Always wear safely equipment. It is best to wear steel-capped boots whenever working in the shed or yard. Safety glasses are essential and hopefully the habit is so ingrained that they are donned as a matter of course. With failing eyesight, good light becomes even more important so make sure globes and light sources are adequate for the task in hand. It might be time to purchase a stand alone light for the workshop which can be moved to illuminate the area required.
Always use a handle on a file and never try to undo a screw while holding the item in the palm of your hand. A slight slip can easily cause a nasty accident. Check handles for tightness. Axe handles which loosen can be soaked in a bucket of water. The resultant swelling of the wood will tighten the handle in the head of the axe.
When using a trimming knife, be aware of the hand holding the straight edge and make sure there is no danger of slipping and slicing open your hand.
After working with solvents, it is important to scrub the hands and fingernails thoroughly to avoid infections round the nail edges or through any minor cuts. Working with cement also needs precautions. Wash the hands thoroughly and apply a hand cream after working with cement. During prolonged use it would be a good idea to dip the hands occasionally in vinegar to neutralise the alkalinity contained in the cement mix.
Should you hit your fingernail with a hammer or jam your hand in a door, holding the nail firmly for ten minutes may save it.
Avoid standing on chairs, upholstered or otherwise. When standing on a chair the whole body weight is focussed on two points and tacks holding the upholstery in place are not made to withstand this amount of weight.
Arthritis and rheumatism can make holding and hammering nails a much more difficult job than it once was. Small nails can be pushed through a piece of corrugated cardboard until the nail is secured. Remove the cardboard and hammer the nail home. An old-fashioned hairpin will also do the job. Larger nails can be held with a clothes peg while the first few strokes are made.
Rubbing the pointed end of a nail in soap makes it easier to hammer and rusty nails and screws will benefit from the same treatment. Drill a hole slightly larger than the core size of the screw and use a screw with a parallel thread. This will hold just as securely as a screw that has been wrenched around to get it in. This is also a good idea if using Phillips head screws as it is easy to rip out the slots leaving no way of tightening the screw down or removing it if needed.
Don’t use power cords that are frayed or damaged.
When using power tools, there are a number of issues to be aware of. With all power tools, switch off at the wall and unplug when not in use. Most power tools should not be used in wet conditions. Keep the flex away from the machine, don’t wear loose-fitting clothing and wear the appropriate safety gear.
Switch the machine off at the socket when about to fit a new abrasive sheet. Switch on before applying the sander to the surface of the work.
Unplug to change saw blades, be sure keep the hands clear of the blades and release the trigger lock after each cut
These can cause all sorts of injuries. Wear full-face mask and boots. Allow the machine to reach full speed before applying to the work and unplug the machine before changing discs and when not in use.
Hot Glue Gun
Keep your hand away from the front of the nozzle when the gun is in use and allow the gun to cool down before packing it away.
Rest the gun on scrap material while it is heating. Never touch the hot glue.
Release the trigger lock at the end of each cut and retract the blade when not in use.
Unplug when changing cutters, keep the hands clear of the cutters and switch off at the end of each cut.
Take great care if operating power tools around children. While your own children may have grown up used to watching you work, other children may have had little exposure to tools of any sort and extra care should be taken if there are children in the area.
A few small precautions will make your workplace a safer place to be.