Great Electronic Christmas Gifts for Older Folks and the Downright Elderly
What Are Good Electronic Gifts for Seniors?
When you are in your twenties, thirties or even your forties, finding good Christmas gifts for people in their sixties and beyond can be a real challenge. Most older people don't need any more tee shirts that say "Over the Hill and Loving it" or golf and travel gadgets. Granny's closet is chock full of fuzzy slippers and she has more scented soap than she can ever use. This Christmas, how about considering an e-reader, digital camera or iPad for the older people in your life?
Things to Consider When Shopping for Older Folks
There are a few things that are special about buying for the older crowd.For starters, there is a wide range of difference in the abilities and interests of older individuals. Most ten year olds fall within a pretty standard ten-year-old range. They have only been on the planet ten years so the differences between most them are still minimal—but just wait!
At age seventy, differences between people in terms of physical health, interests, life experience and acquired abilities as well as disabilities are immense. One person may be running marathons while another is hooked up to an oxygen tank in a nursing home. Yet another will have started a new business in his sixties or be volunteering with the peace corps while his fellows have taken up golf and bridge. It is important to take the wide range of individual abilities and preferences into consideration when buying holiday gifts for older folks.
The factors that have shaped a long life make for wide individual variations, but one thing is for sure: Tablets, laptops, e-readers and various tech gadgets are wonderful holiday gifts for older people and are often overlooked by the young as possibilities. If you want to give your great-aunt Tillie something other than a flannel nightgown this year, here are a few of my top suggestions.
Amazon Kindle Fire
This is the perfect gift for the techno-phobic senior as well as for the computer literate hip retiree. Many older people already shop online and know and trust Amazon, so the familiar name is a plus. In fact, many seniors are Amazon Prime members already and will welcome a portable device on which to watch all those free movies. Many retired seniors still use desk-top PC's and will welcome the idea of a potable device on which to watch movies, read, play games or listen to music. The interface is totally user-friendly. All a person needs is reliable access to wi-fi. The Kindle Fire has been around for a few years so most of the bugs have been worked out and it just keeps getting better and better.
There are 7 to 10 inch screens available with and without 4G capability and with a variety of storage capacities and at a variety of price points.The Kindle Fire is really an eminently customizable tablet at a bargain basement price. Check out all the options on the Amazon site while keeping in mind the specific needs of the seniors in your life.
How It Works
I think the Kindle Fire, in all its glory, also offers an easy introduction to the latest technology to wary elders by creating a bridge from traditional books to electronic reading which pulls them into using a tablet in a very comfortable, non threatening way. In addition, it offers easy access to a garden of visual and auditory content at Amazon.com. and beyond. From podcasts to music and full length movies, there is a world of content to choose from. The web is accessible via whatever browser you like including Amazon's own " Silk" browser. Where wi fi is an issue ( such as in a nursing home) a Kindle Fire with 4G capability can tap into the internet via cell towers. Plus, on some newer models there is an excellent camera, ideal for Skype and Facetime. The Kindle Fire gets even the most resistant technophobe used to using a large, easily navigated, virtual keyboard and to the experience of downloading " apps" and surfing the internet in a seamless way. It's a win/win all the way around.
Basic Kindle E-Reader
One step down from the Kindle Fire is the basic Kindle e-reader. It is perfect for older people with vision problems and also makes a good introduction to using a virtual keyboard and downloading for real newbies. The price has fallen to rock bottom territory in recent years,and combined with a nice cover and reading light, is a very good choice for someone who used to have to rely on waiting until the large print edition of a beloved book came into the library. Most seniors are delighted to be able to enlarge and change the font to suit their individual visual needs rather than having to root around for their reading glasses. Amazon's patented e-paper screen is easy on aging eyes too. Just be sure that your senior gift recipient has access to Wi-Fi and an Amazon account and knows how to download selections and you are good to go.
Streaming Video Players
A fabulous gift for anyone with WiFi and a reasonably new TV is a streaming video player, which allows one to stream movies and TV programs wirelessly, directly from the internet to a big screen TV at the touch of a button. Roku and Apple TV lead the pack, but there are many options out there. While you may have cut the cord years ago and been streaming TV and watching movies on your iPhone for years, the older folks in your life may well still be watching TV the old fashioned way. If they prefer to keep their old TV and it is a relatively modern flat screen, then get them a Roku Box, hook it up and show them how to use it. It is easy to install and easy to use. It works with HD and ordinary TV and the newest model comes loaded with features.
You can sync existing Netflix, Amazon, Hulu accounts and a number of streaming internet TV and radio channels to Roku or any streaming player. . Great for getting golf tips or watching baseball games as well as movies, or for accessing Yoga or daily fitness workouts. While streaming video players are a boon to all ages, they are particularly useful for older people who might not go to the gym or the movies in bad weather or who can easily feel isolated. Internet TV is definitely the wave of the future and streaming video players let seniors get in on it now.
Cameras and Digital Gadgets
Older people have a lifetime of photos, usually stored in scrapbooks and shoe boxes. For any reasonably computer literate person, the Hammacher Schlemmer Christmas catalog offers an especially easy to use, dedicated digital photo scanner which can digitize a lifetime of memories in the blink of an eye and there are a number of excellent scanners available which can not only scan photos, but will digitize old letters, postcards, and other ephemera as well. If you have an older friend or relative with a massive photo and memorabilia collection, this is a wonderful gift. It goes without saying that the original material should be stored not discarded, but having everything all together on a computer or in the cloud would be very cool and make it easy to locate and send photos to friends and family.
A new point and shoot digital camera that is small, lightweight and easy to use would be a great gift for grandparents or for an older couple who like to travel. I came across a wonderful site doing research for this hub called Eldergadget. It is not only a treasure trove of gifts for the mature crowd, but this site also rates and suggests electronics and gadgets in terms of their usefulness to seniors. They have an excellent selection of point and shoot digital cameras with large, easy to use controls. Check out the site for reviews and tips on what cameras offer features most useful to seniors..
100 year old woman meets iPad
A Final Word
People are not stereotypes. I know eighty year-olds who are super techno- saavy and forty-somethings who are total Luddites. While it is true that most seniors grew up with black, rotary dial telephones in the days before computers, it is wise not to assume that they are still living in the world of their youth. All fourteen year olds do not spend all of their time text-ing their bff's either. Many older people have embraced iPads and smartphones with enthusiasm, and a number younger people have not and yearn for the " good old days" before they were born.
However, the lifestyle of older people no longer in the workplace tends to mean they have more time at home and less access to or need to know about new, cutting age technology.Their resources and needs are different from what they were in younger years and their money is often spent on medications and trips to the dentist rather than trips Europe.
What I have tried to do here is not to patronize the old, but to help younger people think in terms of technology when buying holiday gifts not just for kids and contemporaries, but also for the elders in their lives. Technology is a big tent and we all need to be inside it.
In some ways, the oldest among us can benefit from technology more than anybody else. If you don't think so, have a look at the video below in which a 100 year old, visually impaired woman uses her new iPad for the first time.