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Senior Friendly Packaging: A Must Not Be Taken for Granted

Janet Schultze
Written by
Janet Schultze
/ Published on
March 16, 2023
People often joke and complain about how difficult some packaging is to open, particularly around Christmas when children, parents and grandparents receive gifts that they are anxious to remove from the package and begin using. One of the most complained about is the dreaded clamshell, which seems to require industrial shears and protective gloves to separate the product from the package while preventing lacerations to the hand and fingers.
Young child opening a medicine jar

The Importance of Child Resistant Packaging

But of course, many products need to be easy to open and many products need to be difficult to open. Some products need to be both very difficult and very easy to open, such as medicines and household chemicals. These types of packages must be easy enough for adults to access while being difficult for children to prevent accidental ingestion of the product. Hospital Emergency Department and Poison Control call center data indicate that the most dangerous ages of children accidentally ingesting something and injuring themselves are aged 2-4 years old.

The Challenges Faced by Seniors

Ease of opening packaging for an adult is incorporated into Child Resistant Certification testing. Certified package formats must demonstrate most adults’ ability to open packaging for medicines and household chemicals to access the product. Most adults, per the testing protocol, means most healthy adults who have no impairments. In real life, as a person ages, they will likely be prescribed more medications, many of them daily dosages. Many adults will develop arthritis that is debilitating to the point at which they cannot open a medicine bottle or prescription drug vial. Some diseases impact motor skill functioning. That, combined with deteriorating vision can present further challenges to an adult who needs to access their own medicine. Some patients have diseases in which they experience a sudden onset of acute pain, and fortunately there are medicines designed to provide quick pain relief, so long as the patient can quickly access their medicine and self-deliver the dose.

Inadequate Packaging Solutions and Their Consequences

If a patient has their mental faculties, they should be able to dispense and take their own medications. When the packaging is cumbersome for adults to open, they may employ the following methods to make the medication dispensing more convenient.

  1. Opening multiple doses and then placing in non-Child Resistant 7 day pill pack containers.
  2. Opening and then placing medicine loose on the countertop, kitchen table or nightstand.
  3. Opening and then placing unsecured medicine in the car or purse.
  4. Removing the medicine from a hard to open bottle and putting the contents in another container.


The Dangers of Improper Opening Techniques

Alternatively, a few other problematic outcomes may occur as a result of packaging being too difficult to open.

  1. Patient doesn’t take prescribed medication if assistance is unavailable.
  2. Patient crushes or otherwise damages the medication while trying to access in an incorrect way, wasting some or the entire dose.
  3. Patient injures themself by utilizing scissors, sharp objects and other inappropriate means to open.

The Importance of Senior-Friendly Packaging

There is much to consider when selecting packaging attributes appropriate for a medicine or chemical product.  Is the patient a relatively healthy adult or do they have a need to access their medicines that is appropriate for a patient with debilitated capabilities? The package must function effectively until the patient finishes the doses and hopefully disposes of it in an environmentally appropriate way.  If the package is designed appropriately for a patient with physical challenges, then the senior-friendly design will help the patient achieve the best oucome with good adherence AND keep children safe from accidental ingestion of the product.

Much can happen in an individual’s home, and good design can help promote proper and safe use of dangerous products.

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