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2011 Tech Gifts for Seniors

Last year's list of tech gifts that keep on giving is still pretty accurate in terms of categories -- eReaders and eBooks, video communication devices, game-related and music-related.  But be thankful, tech time marches on, and there are more variants of each, plus some new items to consider -- if you're in aging services or senior housing, pass some ideas along to residents or clients:

Computers and social connection.  Telikin computer for seniors - which bills itself as the 'world's easiest computer' to use.  Don't know about that, depends on what you mean by computer and whether tablets count.  But it is an all-in-one device -- screen, computer, software -- tailored for seniors. If they already have a computer, consider getting them an inexpensive web camera for Skype (which has its own gadget catalog), a subscription to software that could make it more amenable: InTouchLink, PointerWare, or VitalLink -- or Apple FaceTime.  Meanwhile, Netbooks (Acer or Asus) are cheap and highly functional -- more than tablets at the moment. 

Readers. Kindle has a $79 version and a $99 touch version appropriate for those used to typing on 'soft' keyboards, versus actual keys (although the latter can be extremely irritating for the shaky-of-hand.) Add a gift certificate for Amazon eBooks to use up the money saved. While you're thinking about books, consider subscribing to Readeo for reading/sharing children's books online or a recording of a grandparent reading a book. Finally, Amazon has just adding a lending library for Amazon Prime Kindle owners and local libraries are lending eBooks -- both would be free. And visual aid magnifiers and other tech for those with low vision are possibilities.

Phone/hearing -- and listening. A video phone -- who knew there were so many? Grandstream has a number of models.  And while we're at the phone thing, if they are hard of hearing, there's Hamilton CapTel -- captioned telephones with free captioning services (multiple phone types possible.) And while we're at that hearing topic, there's TV Ears to enhance/enable the TV-listening experience. And GreatCall has added the 5Star Urgent Response app and new wearable device/service. New in 2011 -- CoroHealth launched a new category -- 'therapeutic audio solutions' that include music and spiritual content, with a specialized device -- or through the Internet. And the iPod -- especially with a family member's pre-recorded music -- is a winner.

Services - PERS and personal. Is it time for a transportation alternative to driving a car?  Learn more at ITN America -- or what's up for seniors and driving from AAA. Or contact San Francisco's SilverRide (which accompanies seniors to concerts and now offers drives to the airport) and help them expand to other regions. Meanwhile, the PERS world has both the Mobile (Mobile Help and Active Care) and traditional PERS (Lifesation.com) and with fall detection from Philips. In the passive monitoring realm, GrandCare's HomeBase and Care Innovations Connect link in telehealth devices to monitor wellbeing of individuals with chronic disease.

You're wondering about tablets like the iPad or Kindle Fire, smart phones, gaming beyond the Wii and Internet TV apps for older seniors? Not just yet. Let's wait to see what's new for next year until after CES and Silver Summit in January 2012.

Additional ideas are welcome!




Memo is a new device to help people who are generally capable of independent living except for memory loss. It's a ten-inch tablet that displays important information and reminders all day so people know what day it is, what they're supposed to do, and what's going on in their world. It always displays the correct day, date, and time. It is usually placed on a table next to a favorite chair, where messages will seen all day.

The person needs no computer experience at all to benefit from Memo: if they can watch TV, they can use Memo! In addition to the day, date, time, and messages, the family can add a calendar and a to-do list. For people are a little more tech savvy or who learn easily, several touchscreen features can be added: the weather, photo albums, a phone list, a detailed list of medications, and a Help button. Navigation has been simplified to a single loop between a feature and the home page, so an elder cannot get confused in a maze of menus, links, windows, and websites.

Messages and features are added and edited remotely by family members, as often as they like, from any location where they have Internet access. The family caregiver website is very intuitive and easy to use; most people begin using it with no instruction. The primary caregiver can give password access to the family site to other family members, aides, and other helpers. If they're given access as viewers, they can see exactly what the elder sees, so it helps several people stay in the loop and coordinate care. If they're given access to edit Memo, so they can also add messages, update the calendar, post photos, and more.

Memo has been in development for a year and half and has been revised many times in response to feedback from families who have piloted it. Final touches are being made to the website site today, Tuesday, November 29th. The formal product launch is scheduled for Wednesday, November 30th. Look for an announcement with the website address on the 30th!

Beclose is a really great tech system that helps seniors live independently in their homes. Here's the link, it gets a lot of good reviews! www.beclose.com

Hello Laurie,

I've been meaning to reach out to you for a while now, but thought this article would be a great place to start. You may have read about our new program, TechRALLY for Seniors, a traveling interactive workshop designed to help seniors to stay connected to the people and passions in their lives. We have a traveling team of 10, about 75 iPad 2s & iPhones (and other smartphones and tablets), a huge interactive presentation screen, handbooks, and a 24' ft TechRALLY truck full of furnishings and equipment for the program. Our program has been stopping off at retirement communities & active senior communities throughout Chicago, Pittsburgh, Grand Rapids Michigan and other places. We spend the day helping seniors with modern technology, and have sessions on iPads & Tablets, e-Books, Skype & FaceTime, Text Messaging & Smartphones and so much more.

As we begin to wrap up phase one of the pilot program and analyze what is resonating most with the seniors, one thing is absolutely clear-- they LOVE the iPad 2! By the end of our sessions the majority of the attendees (usually about 70 seniors) are downloading apps, reading e-books, surfing the web, sending emails and more. They love the brightness of the screen, the ability to control the font size, the intuitive navigation system, the large keyboard, and the free classic books, of course! Do they all remember everything they learn? Absolutely not. But, more importantly, they learn not to be afraid of technology and to brave those first unknown steps toward a life that is better connected.

I'd love to schedule a time to speak with you in the near future.


Philip Jordan
Exec. Producer

A great gift for the independent minded elderly, AND for the caregiver!

All you need to get going is a telephone for the care recipient, and a browser to access:


Great list! Just a few adds on your Amazon ideas though. The cheaper Kindle versions you mention are "with special offers" (i.e. advertising) which might be annoying/ frustrating for Seniors (or anyone, really). The Kindle Touch without ads is $139. Also the Amazon lending library you mention is a great perk for one "free" book per month, but requires a $79 annual subscription to their "Prime" program (which also includes perks like free 2-day shipping and access to instant streaming video). Just wanted to make sure folks had all the facts!

Not sure how far onto the technology side of things this falls, but a practical gift for seniors is the reacher grabber. Its long arm makes reaching things easy, and contains a hook on the end for putting on socks, shoes, etc. Useful, nonetheless.

RA-911 is a PERS that elders can wear around their neck, just like an in-home medical alert system, but it uses the same technology as a cell phone, so they can call for help no matter where they are. They make great gifts for seniors who already have an in-home system and they can also be used by children, and teens. The product is made by Rescue Alert of California a nationwide Medical Alert System provider.