It’s Your Age

For everyone who has heard “It’s your age,” this article is for you.

I have reached the age when this diagnosis has been applied to whatever thing I might be grumbling about. I must explain, though, that this conclusion has not come from my doctor. She is very open to understanding and interpreting, without bias, whatever is going on with me. No. The people who try to sweep my issues under the carpet are, mostly, just me. Also, in varying degrees, complete strangers.

But, this is not about me. This is about the limitations that make life difficult for people like me. (Do you see what I did there? Not about me, but people like me. OK?)

Blond woman changing a tire, via Wikimedia Commons

If I could, I’d repair my own car. I already do the basic stuff like keeping the oil topped up and the tires full of air, but I can’t do something as simple as changing a tire. This really pisses me off. I have to go to the dealership twice a year to get my tires changed from winter to all-season and back again. (Note: in Canada, all-season tires are good for only three seasons.) Why can’t I do it myself? I can’t change my tires because the nuts and bolts that hold them on require a magic wrench and a strong arm. Even if I had the magic wrench, I don’t have a strong arm.

I don’t mind not having a strong arm, but I do mind that the tires are designed to be unlocked only by people with strong arms. Why can’t they be more accessible? I would like car manufacturers to please devise a gadget for ordinary weak-armed people to be able to change their own tires. Is that too much to ask?

Woman in Kitchen
Woman in Kitchen from Seattle Media Archives via Flickr.

Do you know what else I can’t do? I can’t reach the top shelves in my kitchen cupboards. I have a step stool that I can bring out when necessary, but mostly I just don’t put anything that I use very often on the top shelves. They have become the kitchen version of the garage: a waiting room for things destined for the thrift store. If you Google for images of a woman reaching upper kitchen shelves, you won’t find them.

If I were a kitchen cupboard designer, I would bring them all down to the countertop level. Forget the backsplash. Bring the counter and sink out another twelve inches and lower all the cabinets eighteen inches. That way we can all reach the top shelves. Then the lower sinks, cabinets, and drawers would be extended out another foot, and this would be great! This is where we really need the space so that we can easily put away all our whisks, serving spoons, and Tupperware. Good idea, yes? You are welcome.

Paint Trim via

It just seems as though there are a lot of things that are designed to make life difficult for short, weak people so that we have to go to taller, stronger people (not even experts!) to get things done. If I were taller and stronger I could dig out my lawn and replace it with a vegetable garden. If I were taller and stronger I could repaint the trim on my house. If I were taller and stronger I could take out the wallboard in my suite and replace it with drywall. But no, they’ve made all these things too difficult. Even climbing a ladder requires someone to hold it steady. Why can’t they make ladders that will work steadily for short, weak, unsteady people working alone?

Given enough time and tools, I could manage. I could do all these things unaided. But as it is, I have to ask friends and relatives for help. If they are unable to help, I have to call a professional and they cost a lot of money. In fact, what they don’t tell you about retirement is that you need money for tradespeople. Never mind paying for housing, food, and transportation. You will also be made totally dependent on other people for all sorts of practical things, and those people don’t come cheap.

My theory is that there should be technology available to allow people like myself to be functionally independent. If I’d known earlier that it wasn’t available, I would have worked ten years longer at my job to save up to hire tradespeople. Since I didn’t do that, I’m writing to ask all inventors to do what they can to meet this need. It isn’t my age, it’s the lack of the necessary gadgets to enable me, and similarly competent people, to fix things.

Also, it would be nice if Google Images had pictures of women actually doing any of the above-mentioned things. As I said, it isn’t about me. It’s about people like me.


  1. Kitchen cupboards are probably the most useless things in the entire universe. Designed by a cost-cutting, (supposedly) space-saving orientated moron who was either a sadist or 8 feet tall, and a sadist.
    However, said sadistic moron must have lots of friends because if my wife is anything to go by years of pleading to simply rip them out and go back to an old fashioned open pantry type storage have fallen on deaf ears for my entire marriage.
    I would estimate that about 90% of what is in our kitchen cupboards above direct eyesight is never used, has not been used since my Grandfather drove a bus during WWII and won’t ever see the light of day.
    But can I get permission to even store them? No.


    As for the car thing. I concur.
    I usually call for my daughter to sort such things out. Not that I can’t do them, but I loathe doing them, whereas Emily emerged from the womb clutching a shifting spanner!

          • She once stripped the carburetor on my old Fiat. It never ran properly from day one when I drove it off the showroom even after numerous ”special tunings” and removing it and sending the carb in to be serviced it slowly deteriorated over the years.
            I arrived from work one Saturday to find Ems sitting amidst a zillion small engine parts and I nearly had an infarction.
            Her reply: Well, it doesn’t work properly so how much worse can I make it?”

            Anyhow, she discovered that the carburetor was short one mounting bolt (only had three out of four) and this was the reason it never ran smoothly. – there was never a proper seal so air always got sucked in or something.
            Obviously a manufacturing fault that not even supposed specialists discovered.
            We bought the bolt that afternoon and she put it all back together. I tuned it up and it ran like a dream.

            • Wow. That is really impressive. I am in awe. Does she have some training in mechanical repairs or is she self-taught? Either way, she is now my hero.

              I’ve often wished I had been taught some of these skills in high school. As it was, I was taught how to sew a skirt and bake a sponge cake. Good things to know, but I had already learned those things at home.

            • Self taught. And she can read!
              With the help of a friend she changed the brakes on my Alfa, and also replaced the radiator. And that was a job and a half.
              I made tea!

  2. When I got my kitchen renovated a few years ago I was told my old kitchen cupboards (built in the mid-1980s) were no longer considered up to code but obviously my new ones would be. I didn’t give that much thought. I just assumed whatever the new code was would be an improvement. I was wrong. Being up to code meant the counter was higher and the upper cupboards were installed higher as well. Having the upper cupboards higher wasn’t a big deal. I’m short. Reaching the upper shelves has always been a challenge. But having the countertop higher? That’s been an issue. The countertop is too high to comfortably prepare food. I now use my kitchen table as my food prep surface. I guess I’m lucky I have room for a table in my kitchen. Sigh…

    • Oh, Pat. That is really upsetting. You go to all the trouble and expense of getting your kitchen renovated only to have it be less practical than before!

      I wonder if there is any wiggle room in the design codes or if counters have to be at exactly a given height. Regardless, it doesn’t work for you!

      In my own kitchen the counter height is fine and I can reach the bottom two cabinet shelves but upstairs in Ken and Julie’s kitchen I can only reach their bottom shelf. Their cabinets are just a bit higher but its enough that I can’t put their dishes away.

      • I have issues grocery shopping as well. I often find items stacked one on top of the other on the very top shelf making it dangerous to get something. If it’s a single row I can reach the item but not if the items are stacked. I usually have to track down a taller employee!

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