Child-resistant (CR) packaging is as essential now as ever. Current estimates project that 1 in 6 people in the world will be over age 65 by 2050, and there will be three times as many people over age 80 in the next 30 years. Longer life beyond age 65 means more people will be taking more medicines for longer amounts of time, leading to an increased demand for CR packaging. An aging population also translates to an uptick in conditions like arthritis, which limit hand function and ability to operate CR packaging.
Arthritis and weakness in the hands are major barriers to the use of existing CR packaging for many seniors. Severe pain and limited dexterity make the manipulation of CR motions (like palm-and-turn or pinch-and-turn) very difficult to perform. Unfortunately, there are varying conditions which affect different areas of the hands and wrists. While palm-and-turn might be functional for someone with arthritis in their knuckles, it’s an impossible motion for someone affected in the wrist and palm.
In the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates CR testing and certification. The testing protocol does specify that a package must be both child-resistant and senior-friendly; however, it excludes testing with seniors who have limitations such as arthritis. While this protocol is a fair assessment for much of the senior population, it excludes as many as 40% of people who develop arthritis in the hands.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Designers must use the CPSC protocol for ensuring child safety, but should strive for inclusivity by using the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease of Use Commendation program, which is designed to encourage the development of user-friendly products and packaging for the millions of people living with functional limitations. While designers have traditionally relied on the application of force (such as in pinch or push motions) to achieve child-resistance, we must think differently about how this affects those with limitations. Child-resistant packaging is ripe for innovation through finding new ways to prevent accidental opening by children without isolating a significant portion of the population within the target user group.
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