There’s always a reason to give a thoughtful gift. If you have a senior or two on your shopping list, how about something a little different this year? Instead of yet another box of fancy soap or aftershave, consider a technology gift for today’s savvy seniors.
A Web Cam Means Happy Grandchildren
Give the grandparents the gift of visual and audio interaction with their children and grandchildren. If Grandma and Grandpa don’t live next door, they’ll love the opportunity to see and speak with their grandchildren via a Webcam. Most of today’s Webcams have a built-in microphone and may come optimized to be used with Windows Messenger or some other IM system. With prices (at Amazon) varying from less than $30 to almost $300, there is a camp for every budget.
Remember that, while some seniors may be able and willing to install their cams themselves and discover how to use them on their own, others may require assistance. Include installation and a few lessons as part of the gift in the latter case.
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A Web Cam Means Peace of Mind
A wireless network camera could save the day in special circumstances. For example, Panasonic’s BL-C131A Network Camera Wireless 802.11 is promoted as a camera that lets you monitor your pets, property, or even your children when you are not at home.
You set up the camera at any location without needing a local PC. Then, by logging on to a specially designated Internet site, you can check the room from any PC or Internet-equipped cell phone or PDA. You can also modify the camera’s pointing direction and its digital zoom via the Web browser. The camera has a built-in microphone, as well as a special night-view mode.
Consider this camera’s application in the case of a senior who lives alone and maybe in frail health. If you have ever frantically phoned Granddad’s neighbors to please check on him to be sure he’s OK, you’ll appreciate the peace of mind this product could provide. With Granddad’s permission, you could set up the camera in his home and log on whenever you were concerned that he could need help say, a time when he was not responsive to phone or e-mail messages.
At close to $300, this wireless camera is among the more powerful products of its kind available.
Rather than a Webcam, you might also consider the QuietCare System, a health-care system designed to help seniors live independently. This system uses a series of activity sensors to learn Granddad’s normal activity around his home. When the system notes a change in pattern, it notifies a call center or sends an e-mail alert or text message to a designated party.
Computer Glasses Aren’t a Pain in the Neck.
Does the computer-savvy senior in your life wear bifocals, trifocals, or progressive lens eyeglasses? These glasses are not optimized for viewing a computer monitor. When wearing such glasses at the computer, Grandma has to tilt her head backward to focus on the screen when she is looking through the bottom part of the lens. To put it mildly, this gives her a big pain in the neck.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Grandma will enjoy her computer time so much more if you spring for a set of prescription computer glasses. Contact your friendly optometrist and ask for details. Be sure to ask your eye-care specialist about glare-resistant lenses, also very important for computer users.
Keep Grandpa in the Loop With a DVD Player and Slide Show
Want something extraordinary for the senior in the family who is shut-in, or perhaps living in a continuing care facility? How about a small, portable DVD player and a special family slide show disc? Contact the extended family members and ask for digital pictures, both old and new. Compile your collection; turn it into a slide show using PowerPoint, Microsoft Plus! SuperPack for Windows XP or some other slideshow software, and then burn it to a DVD. (If using PowerPoint, you’ll need to include the free PowerPoint viewer on the DVD).
Remember to add titles and captions to each picture, so Grandpa knows what he’s looking at. You might also shoot some video, edit it, and send along a video production that your senior can watch in the privacy of his or her own room.
Portable DVD players range in price from $30 to a couple of hundred dollars. You must be sure that the machine you choose can play DVD+R/RW. Otherwise, there will be the only disappointment when your home-recorded DVDs don’t play.
You could also include a few of Grandma’s or Grandpa’s favorite movies with this gift. And, like the Webcam described above, your senior might appreciate some instructions on how to use this gift.
VoIP Means Affordable Long-Distance Calling-Anywhere
Are the family members spread over the four corners of the globe? If so, VoIP providers such as Skype, Vonage, and others make it possible for seniors to stay in contact without worrying about astronomical telephone bills.
Give your senior a microphone with headset (starting at around $20), or perhaps a special Skype phone. Make sure that Grandma has helped with the Skype software installation, which can be tricky. Provided all parties have a Skype account, Grandma can talk with anyone, regardless of where they live, free of charge, using the microphone or the Skype phone. If she plans to phone someone who will be using a landline phone, buy her a Skype credit or two costing about $14 each. Rates per minute vary depending on location. For example, a Skype call from Canada to a landline in Israel costs about $8 for thirty minutes.
An iPod Means Music, Audiobooks, and Newscasts-Anywhere!
Consider giving Grandpa the gift of portable music and newscasts. With an iPod or other similar devices, your senior doesn’t have to miss their favorite newscast or other show while they walk around the neighborhood.
Audiobooks are particularly appreciated if your senior has difficulty reading due to failing eyesight. You might consider adding a gift certificate from iTunes or a service like Audible.com, for example, along with the media player. At Audible.com, you pay $7.49 for the first three months, then $14.95 afterward. Your senior gets one downloaded audiobook per month, chosen from the searchable database of around 40,000 titles.
iTunes similarly has many choices, including movies, television shows, music, audiobooks, and podcasts. Be sure to introduce your senior to the world of podcasting if he isn’t familiar with it.
Other miscellaneous ideas include a TiVo (seniors get weary of commercials, same as you do), or perhaps an AirO2bic computer mouse, a device designed to be used by arthritic hands.