From Dick Tracy’s two-way radio watch in 1946 to Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone in 1965 to Inspector Gadget in 1983, Americans have been in love with gadgets. Face it, we all look through Sky Mall magazine as we fly to see what new things “we can live without.” I would venture to say that we are now living in the beginning of the Golden Age of Gadgets. And you know what? For caregivers, that is not a bad thing!
I also know that Christmas is coming and that parents are often the hardest people to buy presents for. But what if we could get them something they’d really appreciate, while at the same time buying ourselves some peace of mind? Win – win! Even if your parent shuns technology, the good news is that tech gadgets can benefit all seniors, regardless of how they feel about them. I haven’t done all of the research for you, because you know your own budget, but I’m going to give some suggestions for categories of helpful gadgets that can make life easier for your parents.
Let’s start with one of the most touted – smart home devices. Think Amazon Echo or Google Nest, or even Ring Door View Cam*. These devices have become common enough that the price is affordable. You may want to do the setup for your parents, depending on how tech-savvy they are. This gives your parent a way to control things with a natural language interface (like making a phone call without having to fumble around with a tricky cell phone) and offers assistive capabilities (such as reminders). But there are some cons, too, like incorrect responses from the device if it cannot clarify what has been said. This can lead to frustration or connecting to something they really don’t want to see or hear.
If your parent isn’t ready for a whole house system but needs help with a phone, you might consider a simplified, large button phone like a Jitterbug. Designed for seniors, these make calling easier and can even have a built-in medical alert system. (See a review here.)
Has your parent started forgetting medications? Today’s automated medication dispensers, once filled, dispense the proper meds at the right time, with an alert noise or flashing light to remind your loved one. They can even notify the caregiver if the meds haven’t been taken at the proper time. (Check out this comparison chart.)
While I wouldn’t recommend a smart toilet to provide ambiance (lighting, music, and more!) in the bathroom, unless you are willing to shell out around $7,000, what about a bidet? If your mom or dad has arthritis or other limiting debilities, personal hygiene can be challenging. Bidets have come a long way – no longer just a water hose you attach to your toilet – they offer heated water with varying pressure and an air dryer, just to mention a couple of perks, and many come at affordable prices. There are lots of other helpful gadgets for the bathroom, which you can see here.)
Another great idea is an “item finder.” For a forgetful loved one, you can attach one of these to any item (think keys, phone, TV remote) so they can be found by pushing a single remote. This sounds like a great idea for anyone at any age! (You can see this and other tech gadgets here.)
Plenty of gadgets are available for the kitchen, too. From an automatic jar opener to a talking microwave oven to knob turners, there are gadgets that assist people with challenges and gadgets that promote safety. You can see a selection here.
This list barely scratches the surface. There are many adaptive gadgets out there, even adaptive clothing to make dressing easier for your parents. Here are a few more websites you can check out: Wright Stuff, Mobility Aids, Activenable, Silverts. We have even more suggestions on AllThingsAgingParents.com listed under Caregiver Supports.
As always, the most important thing in our caregiving is the love we show and the safe and secure environment we encourage. Those are the big things. But there are little things that can make life a little easier. So while these suggestions may not revolutionize our lives, like the Walkman or Game Boy, gadgets can make a real impact on the quality of life – and care – we help provide for our parents.
*All Things Aging Parents receives no compensation for products or websites mentioned in this blog.