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Ergonomics for Every Age

Friday, December 11, 2009
By Anne Kramer

As we grow older and our bodies changes, our physiology and activities also shift. These changes require ergonomic adaptations, to provide proper support and protection at every phase of life. From childhood to late adulthood, ergonomics offers a wide variety of measures to improve health and productivity.

Children’s Ergonomics

Because children’s primary task is school, it is important that they have the proper tools for writing, studying, and carrying their educational materials. Most ergonomic tools for children come in a variety of sizes, to ensure proper fit.

  • A child’s backpack should be properly fitted, so that weight is distributed properly. Multiple pockets help to balance the load, and padded straps protect the nerves in the shoulders.
  • Ergonomic writing utensils provide extra padding and contoured grips, to reduce pressure on the fingers and wrists. Pencil grips can be added to other writing instruments.
  • Rather than writing flat on the desk or table, students can use a slant board. These place the writing surface at a more natural angle and eliminate awkward leaning over the work surface.

Ergonomics for Working Adults

The vast majority of adults stay in the workforce for the greater portion of their lives. Thus ergonomic intervention can play a significant role in reducing repetitive stress injuries. In the office, a wide variety of ergonomic tools are useful in protecting adults’ health.

  • Adjustable chairs and work surfaces reduce the incidence of chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain due to sustained improper posture.
  • Task lighting prevents eyestrain and makes it easier for employees to complete tasks that require visual concentration, thereby improving productivity.
  • Ergonomic stretch break workouts remind workers to take breaks at regular intervals, either to stretch or to change tasks.
  • Alternative input devices like foot switches and roller balls eliminate mousing, decreasing the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome and associated repetitive stress injuries.

Ergonomics for Aging Adults

The pain and immobility caused by conditions associated with aging, particularly arthritis, can be mitigated with ergonomic interventions and tools. Aging adults should focus on reducing lifting, carrying, and reaching./p>

  • Frequently used items can be placed on an easily accessible carousel. At work, these items may include tools like scissors, stables, or tape. At home, seniors may use carousels for gardening equipment, kitchen implements, or even medications.
  • Reaching should not exceed 18 inches, so pullout shelves are useful in the kitchen, closets, and home office.
  • To reduce joint stress, tools should be fitted with ergonomic handles. From ergonomic screwdrivers to letter openers, these items are generally easy to find.
  • Since the back and spine deteriorate with aging, it is important to break up loads of more than two pounds, and to provide proper lumbar support for chairs and seating.

Ergonomic awareness can help people of any age to choose the right tools for maintaining health and increasing productivity. The right ergonomic tools prevent repetitive stress injuries for a lifetime.

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