Dear Savvy Senior: Can you recommend a few good reacher-grabber tools for seniors with back or hip problems who need help picking things up off the ground? I bought a cheap one a few months ago that doesn’t work very well but would like to find one that does. — Bad Back Betty
Dear Betty: A good “reacher-grabber” is a practical and popular tool for anyone who struggles with injuries, arthritis or loss of mobility. It works like an extension of your arm, allowing you to pick up things off the ground without bending or stooping over. It can also help with accessing items in high overhead places, as well as in areas that are difficult to get to.
But with so many different types of reacher-grabbers on the market today, finding one that works well for you is not always easy. Depending on your needs, here are some top-rated products to consider.
>> All-purpose: For retrieving small- and medium-size items, the “Ettore Grip’n Grab” is a top option that can handle most chores. This 34-inch-long tool has a soft, comfortable trigger handgrip and a rubberized jaw that’s strong enough to lift objects up to 5 pounds and 4 inches wide yet sensitive enough to pick up something as small as a dime. The jaw also rotates and locks at 90 degrees for vertical or horizontal use, to help you reach things in awkward spaces.
>> Lightweight: If you want a reacher primarily for retrieving small lightweight items around the house, the “RMS Featherweight the Original Reacher” is a top pick. Available in 32- and 26-inch lengths, it’s made from ultralightweight aluminum and has a trigger-style handgrip with a serrated jaw that provides a secure grip when lifting objects.
It also has a magnet built into the tip for picking up lightweight metal objects such as a paper clip, and a small hook (or horn) that aids in retrieving items such as clothes, shoes or keys. It even has a built-in clip on the arm so you can attach it to canes, walkers and wheelchairs. But because of its super-lightweight design, it doesn’t work well at retrieving heavier items such as canned goods from shelves.
>> Foldable: For easier storage, the top-selling folding grabber is the Zayad Reacher Grabber Tool, which is 32 inches long and has a slip-joint in the arm that allows it to easily fold in half. It also has a soft ergonomic grip with a rubberized, rotating jaw that can lift objects up to 3 pounds and 4 inches wide.
>> Heavy-duty: For heaver-lifting jobs (up to 8 pounds) or for outdoor use, the “Unger Nifty Nabber” is a top choice. Available in 36- and 48-inch lengths, this sturdy tool has a rubber-coated heavy-duty claw that grips small, large and odd-shaped items with ease. It also has a built-in magnet for picking up small metal objects and an ergonomic squeeze-grip handle.
Where to buy
You can find reacher- grabbers at many pharmacies, retail, medical equipment and home improvement stores. But because it’s a specialty item, selection can be limited. Your best bet is to buy one online at amazon.com, which sells all of the top reacher-grabbers at prices ranging from about $10 to $20. Just type the product name in the search bar to find it.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.