November can be a gloomy month. Thanksgiving and Halloween fun give way to the somber and serious reflection of Remembrance Day, before the work and joy of winter celebrations. For me, November also marks a return of the “gripes”—those small irritations that can negatively affect a person’s mood. I’m slowly coming to grips with how bad my grip has become.

I was diagnosed with arthritis sometime in my late 20s, but, unlike some things that have gotten better with time, my ability to tolerate my arthritis has not. I drop things easily because my grip is precarious. I lack the dexterity to text easily. It hurts to hold a book for any length of time. I don’t dare hold my IPad without a keyboard tray as it costs too much to get it fixed once the warranty has worn off.

My gripes center on manufacturers and service providers and designers who don’t seem to realize how difficult they can make life for a person with arthritis. More than six million Canadians have arthritis as of 2020. Almost half of them are under the age of 65 (StatsCan data excluding the territories).

You would think that some industries would notice. Take smoked oysters, for example—a seasonal treat in our family, but not this year. I’m so tired of wrestling with the stupid little tabs that break off and the lids that won’t respond to a normal can opener. I’m also tired of that smoked oyster oil smell in my favourite winter vest, although my cat does like to snuggle with me when I wear it.

Also on my gripe list are the tiny little foil caps with a tiny little foil tab, for shampoos and creams, etc. I often have to search for a knife or tweezers to try and pull them off—usually resulting in some kind of mess. I waste a lot of salt wrestling with that silly salt box spout, making superstitious offerings to the Roman goddess Vesta by throwing salt over my shoulder. I’m thankful that cardboard milk cartons are double-sided, as I often mangle the one side before trying to open the other.

And then there’s the medications, like eye drops. The otherwise-wonderful pharmacy I use tapes an extra prescription label on the teeny little bottle. I’ve poked my eye with the floppy label more than once as I try to squeeze drops from the hard bottle. I now rip the label off but the bottle label comes with it so I have to hope that I remember the shape of each of the three bottles I need. And why aren’t the bottles themselves easier to squeeze? Harrumph.

Finally, some applications that I use on my IPad will not change their orientation to landscape. You either have to read things sideways, or hold the IPad and keyboard cover awkwardly and precariously. Do these app developers think everyone lives on their phone? Me, I live on my tablet.

Time and space do not permit me to talk about the many issues facing those with arthritis in hips, knees, ankles and back. I will just say that walking should not be a hazardous undertaking, as noted in a recent Supreme Court decision about a woman getting injured navigating a pile of snow on a city sidewalk.

Of course, there are workarounds for many of these gripes. If you don’t want to bang jars on the countertop, there are tools to help open them that mostly work. Prescription pills can be put into foil packs for those of us who wonder why we need childproof bottles at our advanced age. There are so many apps it’s easy to find alternatives. The city could actually enforce the requirement for businesses outside the downtown core to clear their adjoining sidewalks and make sure their own sidewalks are passable, as part of being age-friendly. Stores could seek products that are easy to open.

As we near the winter holiday season, maybe friends and family could also give a thought to gifts that are easy for the recipient to open and use. In the meantime, letters and emails to manufacturers sometimes yield results if Santa isn’t on your mailing list, or if you’re not on his good one.

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