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Friday, December 13, 2019

Best Tech Gifts for Older Adults

From life-changing to merely convenient, these standout innovations are worth a look.

The gift-giving season has arrived, and you’ve taken care of the kids (and possibly grandkids), decorated the house and bought the eggnog. The older members of the family have long since abdicated their own right to presents in favor of the younger set. What does Grandma need, anyway? She always tells you that her gift is seeing the kids, and that’s enough. Or perhaps you’re a grandparent yourself who’s been through a lot of holidays, and you’d rather spend money on the children than yourself. Maybe you’re on the younger side of “old age,” and you’re choosing to travel more. But a present for yourself that comes in a box? No, thank you.

If you haven’t looked at what technology has to offer lately, you may well be missing a chance to make life a whole lot better. Yes, we’re talking about tech for your 90-year-old mother, and we’re talking about tech for you, too. Whether your Instagram account is second nature or you completely skipped the whole computer generation, there’s a product out there for you.

If money is tight and you are computer literate, you may be able to offer the know-how and your time to set up the new device as your gift to someone who is not. Refurbished products are often available online, and check out Craigslist for used devices for sale in your area. Visit this page for a list of 10 sites where you can buy used tech, with recommendations.

  1. Amazon Echo (“Alexa”) voice assistant. About $100. No technological ability is needed to operate this device, which listens for voice commands. Older adults with impaired vision or who have trouble tapping a phone can ask to listen to music (quite a lot of it comes free) or audiobooks (it will play free Hoopla books from your library), and they can call family and friends who have the device. The Echo will also endlessly answer queries about the time and weather, making it invaluable for someone with dementia. Voice assistants can wake you with your favorite music, remind you about appointments, turn lights on and off, and tell jokes. A must for anyone living alone.
  2. Echo Show video screen. About $180. A way to get the benefits of the Alexa voice assistant and add video to the mix, the Echo Show is especially nice for older adults who live far from family members. Make video calls using only your voice to anyone with an Echo device or the Alexa app. Users can also see weather forecasts, calendars and to-do lists. Plus, you can add a Hulu subscription for TV and sports and get movies with Prime Video. You can also set timers and alarms. 
  3. Family Historian 6 Genealogy and Family Tree software. About $50. Chart all your ancestors and/or descendants and include photos and videos. Older adults can create booklets, maps and family trees to pass on. The software boasts an internet search tool to help make discoveries, and it’s fully compatible with the global standard for shared genealogy data.
  4. Sonic Boom alarm clock with bed shaker. About $70. The heaviest sleepers will have no trouble waking up when they feel a pulsating alarm or bed vibrations from the shaker, which slips in under a mattress or pillow. It also features an adjustable LED display with large, bright green numbers. (Great for teenagers, too!).
  5. Serene Innovations HD-40P High Definition Amplified Photo Phone. About $70. Dial up to nine people by touching their photo, which is displayed on the phone. The ringer is extra loud, and incoming sound is amplified as well. It’s hearing aid compatible and has front and side visual ring flashers. 
  6. Ecovacs Deebot N79S robotic vacuum cleaner. About $190. It can be harder to push around a vacuum or sweep when you get older. Solve the problem with a robotic vacuum cleaner that can clean an entire floor, work on a spot or tidy around the edges. It has 110 minutes of run time, and automatically returns to the charger so it’s always ready. Plus, it’s compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant voice devices. 
  7. Esky wireless RF item locator. Have you ever misplaced your keys or wallet? Then you’ll appreciate this pack of four key finders that will save you hours of angst while you hunt down lost items. The finder has an 82-foot range, and the finders will emit a loud noise and light up to accommodate those with limited hearing or sight.
  8. Lutron Maestro motion sensor switch (2-pack). About $40. Older adults will appreciate sensors that turn the lights on when they enter a room, and shut them off when they leave. Prevent falls by making sure areas are lit when your family member is moving through the house. These motion sensor switches feature reliable performance up to 30 feet and programmable time out. The switches work with any bulb type.
  9. Hamilton Beach electric jar opener. About $35. Have you ever struggled to open a jar? It may be due to arthritis, declining strength or just a stubborn seal. From spaghetti sauce to pickles, it’s frustrating to be able to see exactly what you want to eat but not get it out! Fix that problem with an electric jar opener that does the job with the press of a button. 
  10. RainBowl motion sensor toilet night light. About $13. If nature calls in the middle of the night, the last thing you want is to turn on the bathroom light and get blinded and fully awakened at the same time. Solve the problem with this sensor night light that fits on any toilet and comes with a lifetime warranty.