Grandma at the virtual Thanksgiving table this year. I heard two examples this week of Skype-ing an aging relative into last week's family meal; you probably know more examples. Pushy tech-sharp adult children make sure that Grandma is sitting in front of a camera for her meal (nursing home, assisted living or in her home) and able to chat during dinner, seeing the grandchildren, the dog, without having to make an exhausting and destabilizing (especially these days) trip to visit the long-distance family. In another call, I was told that everyone over the age of 75 who is going to go online is already there. Given the distance-collapsing nature of video, I just don't believe it -- every adult child who has children is going to find a way to get a video phone, a camera-enabled iPad, or a camera-enabled laptop into the home of an aging relative.
Find a way to enhance a life with music or harnessing old media. And just this week, a comment about a nursing home seeking used iPods -- reminding me of the significance of music when older people can't get out to concerts or to the annual Messiah sing-along. Assisted living facilities, nursing homes, outbound through senior centers, or convert old records into audio files that can be listened to with headphones, find services like Walgreens that convert VCR tapes to DVD files or services that convert tape to CD -- these can enhance a life and revive past happy memories.
Reading -- nothing like a good book. Today's NY Times wandered through the various tech gifts, iPad competitors (soon to be 3 dozen!), phones for the mobile (Android), en route mobile (the Galaxy Tab), and (I guess) sitting in one spot (iPad???) - I won't repeat or comment on some fairly baffling reviews of fairly baffling gadgets. But reading books on backlit, font-adjustable color Nooks, Kindles, iPads, even PCs or BlackBerry (as my husband does with the free Kindle reader) what great additions to anyone's life -- even those with somewhat fading vision. And 1.8 million free books! Check out this service from Readeo in which long-distance grandparents can read aloud to their grandchildren, flipping through pages of virtual children's books.
Games, games -- online, controller, and gesture. Wii is still the primo senior game controller -- and it turns out to help older adults with balance. Okay, okay -- if you have one, given one to an older relative after showing them what fun it is. While you're at it, show folks free online solitaire, scrabble (multi-player through e-mail!), an Internet bridge club, or instant chess ('cup of coffee compatible'). And wait for Kinect to have some non-jumping games and apps -- that non-jumpers can wave their hands and talk to. Microsoft has always been an 'ecosystem' company, preferring that partners do all the work. Here's hoping that developers who loved the Wii and made multi-age games popular with all ages, will also Kinect with boomers and seniors.
If you have an additional idea for a great gift for older adults -- please comment.