A Bumper Crop of Catalogs with Things You Didn’t Know You Needed

Retirement brings with it a dizzying carnival of catalogs for independent living. They stuff my mailbox, and each is stranger than the last with curious twists to attract aging Boomers. It’s definitely a new take on growing old gracefully.

Remember those thick and fuzzy beige support hose your granny used to wear? One of today’s renditions is called “Support Like Crazy.” Lightweight and silky compression knee-highs now come in a wild array of designs, including flower power, rainbow static, leopard, tapestry, smoke and mirrors, paisley passion, art nouveau, impressionist, circuit board, and fiesta.

If you’re ready to transition beyond a dinner napkin, adult bibs beckon with names like “shirt savers” and “designer dining covers.” Complete with crumb-catcher pockets, they can be found in plaid, floral, blue coral, and dog motifs.

Patterns add a new spin to mobility as well. So-called “socialite canes” are available in butterfly, leopard, and peacock. For what’s described as “a fashionable step forward,” how about a cane in polka dot, fuchsia floral, American flag, or black-and-white check? Cane grips come in orange, purple, and green. Fleecy ones add a soft touch to either T-handle or curved-grip canes.

You can find a techy cane with a safety alarm that lets loose when you press a button; an extra handle for getting out of chairs; and bright, adjustable LED lights to illuminate your walk. (There are battery-operated LED headlight glides for walkers, too.) Maybe it’s time to illuminate a toilet bowl with an LED in one of seven colors and transform the throne into a nightlight. Its motion sensor turns off 45 seconds after you flush and go back to bed.

Ergonomics are a must these days, with gadgetry designed to make it easier to stand up while you pull weeds and dust baseboards, yank on zippers, or stay off the ladder when it’s time to clean the gutters. There’s even a thingamajig arm that holds the TP to give your bum a cleaner wipe.

Depend-brand undies may be the corner drug store’s go-to option for incontinence. Yet many catalogs sell washable incontinence briefs for men in navy and gray and for women in nude, pink, and black. There’s even a women’s white lacy incontinence panty with a waterproof barrier.

I’ve received three catalogs—all of which also address incontinence—that include two- to four-page spreads on personal massagers (aka vibrators), other pleasure contraptions, and DVDs with come-ons claiming to provide sex techniques in explicit detail. I called one of the toll-free order lines and discovered this “sexual health and wellness” inspiration sells at a good clip. Folks who phone in are likely to order something unrelated first because they’re presumably a tad shy about stating their desires for an Apollo Power Stroker, a Triple Tease, or a diminutive waggler masquerading as a red lipstick.

When it comes to discreet, the Support Plus catalog wins top honors for featuring a way to keep stinky gas to yourself with flatulence-neutralizing, activated carbon filters designed to be stuck in your underpants. This invention, called Subtle Butt, has its own hilarious web presence, too.

If all else fails to grab you, consider Potpourri catalog with its “unique gifts for special people.” For a mere $19.95, you can purchase a six-inch, handcrafted, labeled, and empty “jar of nothing.” On the backside, it describes the jar’s contents: “Zilch, nada, squat, zippo, and not a single thing.” Sounds like Boomer talk to me.

Annie Culver developed a knack for unearthing oddball characters and improbable events as a staff writer for various newspapers. In the early 1990s, she went to work for websites where she wrote sassy essays aimed at women. In recent years, she morphed into a writer for several universities in the Northwest. She retired in 2016, yet still enjoys freelancing.


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