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I recently facilitated a survey asking seniors to comment on the amount of difficulty they had with opening food and beverage containers. The 195 responses made for some interesting outcomes and information. I faced unforeseeable challenges with aspects of the data collection for this survey. There was difficulty meeting older adults living in inaccessible apartment complexes. Responses from seniors at recreation centres were meagre and incomplete and many community groups were reluctant to cooperate in getting their senior members together to engage in an irregular scheduled event. Shoppers at malls were unapproachable due to security and liability regulations. Nevertheless, I gathered 193 completed surveys with comments that gave me a peek into the experiences of 50+ folks opening their food and liquid containers. Make your conclusions about how the packaging industry cares for us; especially for those elderly who are living alone and for the most part, go unnoticed and unheard.

This newsletter is a follow-up to the November 2012 food packaging article: “Age-Friendly Packaging — For A Healthy Lifestyle”.

The Food Container/Packaging industry designs various containers/packaging that hold foodstuff and liquids for consumption. Retail food stores provide us with a variety of products each packaged to maintain a certain freshness or shelf-life and which adhere to specific Food and Beverage health and safety requirements.

These containers/packages are made with materials aimed at resisting breakage, leakage and tampering. My survey focused on the type of containers that restrict accessibility for folks who are 50 plus. Although most packaged products sold are packaged with product protection from tampering and public safety in mind, down the line this factor has become a major accessibility concern for many shoppers. Depending on the strength and health of any individual and the type of package, successfully accessing the contents of food containers can be a hit or miss proposition. This summary report looks at the difficulties 50+ folks have in opening various kinds of food and liquid containers. We also compare the difficulties that males and females experience, and then compare the difficulty arthritic males and females have with opening food containers/packages.

The bar graph above shows the type of container and the difficulty (%) in opening the container by the surveys target audience (195 respondents). Bottles are clearly the most difficult to access for all respondents.

With ages spanning from 50 to 85+ males and females react differently to the task of opening their food containers. We asked how often they experienced difficulty opening food and beverage containers. The results show that females have a little more difficulty than males in this regard.

Another question we asked related to the influence that arthritis had on opening food containers. We were able to compare the results for arthritic males and females related to how often they experience difficulty in opening food containers. Arthritic males reported more frequently having difficulty with accessing containers than females did.

Conclusion

Bottles are the most difficult, arthritis makes opening cartons more difficult, and there's not a huge difference in difficulty opening containers between males and females.

The comments from participants and the survey findings indicate that food packaging is problematic for this target audience. With the 80+ population doubling in the next ten years, this might become a critical issue if the appropriate industries do not change their approach. Depending on how critical this becomes we are talking about the well-being of millions of people. The Niagara Region has an age-friendly initiative in place. I happen to be a voice in a group of many community members. Together we can lobby for change in the workings of the packaging industry urging them to make their designs more age-friendly.©

Age-Friendly Packaging Survey Report

Date

August 15, 2013

Author

James Kershaw

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Jim Kershaw says

January 1, 2017

Progress has been made since I completed this project. Tonight I heated up a dinner in a paper bag in the oven. It was easy to open but not that great tasting.

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