How much help must be?


How much help must be?


Without the right shoes, running can be a pain. Imke Renken knows that and wants to help. The 22-year-old is training to become an orthopedic shoemaker. Diabetics, for example, come to her. Their feet are often prone to pressure sores. Or people with legs of unequal length. People who wear a prosthesis also need suitable shoes.

Renken finds her job very rewarding. “It's great to experience when someone hasn't been able to walk for a long time and shoes made by me now make this possible,” she says. Orthopedic shoemakers rework shoes, fit them or make them by hand. They make insoles, corrective splints, orthoses and other aids. They often exchange information with doctors and physiotherapists in the process.

“The customers are by no means just old people with walking problems,” says Stephan Jehring, president of the Zentralverband Gesundheitshandwerk Orthopadieschuhtechnik (ZVOS, German Central Association of the Health Care Trade). Diseases such as rheumatism, as well as sports injuries or deformities of the feet, are also reasons why orthopedic help is needed.

“My daily routine is tremendously varied,” Renken says of her job. When working in the workshop, craftsmanship and aesthetic sensitivity are essential – because shoes and aids should not only serve the health aspect, but also look fashionable. In the store, it's important to connect well with customers. “You shouldn't be afraid to take someone else's feet or legs in your hands to examine them,” says the trainee.

Low cabinets and more space under the countertop make handling easier


How much help must be?


Bending over, standing for long periods of time or handling things above the head: this can become difficult in old age. “For seniors with joint problems, some of it is even impossible,” says Michael Hubert of the Barrier-Free NRW agency. When cooking in a standard kitchen, however, precisely these movements can hardly be avoided. That's why, when you're older at the latest, it can make sense to remodel your kitchen to fit your limited repertoire of movements.

Removing obstacles

It starts with creating seating and removing obstacles. “Especially in the kitchen, it's very important to have enough space to move around with your wheelchair or walker,” says Ursula Geismann of the German Furniture Industry Association. Ideal for older people is a work surface that is already adjusted to the height of the seat. In the case of the sink and worktops, for example, base cabinets can also be removed. So there is room for a wheelchair underneath. The oven door is then placed at the height of the upper body.

Everything fits individually

“The beauty of the kitchen is that no prefabricated setups restrict the design,” says Volker Irle, managing director of the Die Moderne Kuche working group. Those who are remodeling or rebuilding their cooking facilities therefore have every option: Instead of a rollator, for example, standing aids can be installed. Electrically height-adjustable worktops or kitchen tables make life easier. Grab handles for switching between rollator and kitchen chair provide additional safety. If you no longer want to fish for glasses or plates from the top shelf of the wall cabinet, either install the cabinet lower or fill only the bottom shelf with essentials. According to the experts, deep cabinets can be equipped with small platforms that act like a ladder to help the user climb up. Lifts that raise and lower cabinets electrically can be retrofitted. Hinge systems that can be pulled down from wall cabinets are also well suited for seniors.

Bright, safe and smart

Visibility and orientation also play a major role in kitchens designed for senior citizens. “Work surfaces in the kitchen need to be well lit,” says Hubert. Controls should be as high-contrast as possible, numbers should be clear and large, switches should engage audibly and noticeably when switched on and off.

The ideal cooktop shape for seniors is four stovetops side by side, Geisman advises. This reduces the risk of burns. She also advocates the two-senses principle, i.e. kitchen appliances that warn of dangers both visually and acoustically. With a so-called stove guard – a small sensor placed above the stove – the principle can also be integrated into existing kitchens for relatively little money.

If you want, you can make your new kitchen “smart”, i.e. intelligent, with technology. “Then the range hood recognizes what's cooking and adjusts accordingly,” explains Irle. Theoretically, this goes as far as a full cooking program: the stove knows when the dish needs to be cooked or just kept warm, and switches itself off if you forget the soup. Cabinets and drawers that can be opened by voice command or gesture are also possible today. The experts further recommend working ergonomically and in a way that is easy on the body, as well as creating short distances.

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