New technology can feel intimidating for older people, but some gadgets can make life easier!
Whether you fancy a new gadget for fun or to assist with your life, there are products out there that are both easy to use, and that may drastically improve your life.
Technology can achieve lots of things, including:
- Adding an extra layer of safety to your home
- Helping out with household chores you don't have the time or energy to do
- Making life a little simpler.
Let's look at some useful gadgets for older people.
1. Landline phone with nuisance call blocking
While the influx of mobile phones means that fewer people use landlines than ever, many people – particularly older people – still rely on them. But one of the issues with landlines is that it is easier for companies to find or guess your phone number and use it to try and sell you products or scam you.
This is a huge issue for older people vulnerable to scams and data theft. Take a read of our article on protecting yourself from scams and data theft to find out what to look out for.
If you feel like you could benefit from extra peace of mind, consider getting a landline phone with nuisance call blocking.
The particular model we link to is exceptionally good at screening calls so that those with insincere intentions are prevented from getting through. It can automatically detect different call types, including spam calls, and filter them out or warn you that it is potential spam. If someone does get through, you can also manually block up to 1,000 numbers. Of course, it still allows your loved ones and friends to contact you but offers an extra layer of protection against scams and nuisance calls.
2. Wall-mounted key safe
Classic safes are an excellent gadget to keep valuables well protected and may also be required for insurance purposes.
Wall-mounted safes, or key boxes, are another type of safe to consider. These are fixed to the exterior of your home, and keep an extra pair of keys safely locked away in case you forget or lose your main set of keys. They are weather-proof and nearly impossible to break into, providing access to your home in an emergency. If you're worried about forgetting the code, you can save it on your phone or in another private place. These safes also allow you to change the code whenever you need to.
Small wall-mounted safes are also helpful if you travel regularly or find yourself feeling anxious about your home security. For example, say you go out for the day, and suddenly you worry that you've left the oven on or you haven't locked your door correctly. With one of these safes, you can ask a trusted neighbour or friend to pop over and check for you without needing to supply individual keys to lots of people. This can give you peace of mind and an extra layer of security.
3. Digital photo frame
Digital photo frames are a great way to surround yourself with your treasured memories, all without having to constantly get new photos printed and framed. You can place them on a table or shelf, or hang them on the wall like classic photo frames. All you have to do is load a USB or SD card with photos and plug it into the frame, and you can enjoy all of your favourite memories every day. Most models even have a motion sensor - they will automatically turn off to save battery when you leave a room.
If you're not great with technology, you can always have a friend or family member pick out and load the photos for you. If you're buying this for someone else, you could even make them a new USB each Christmas with new pictures for a cost-effective personalised gift. This particular model even supports videos.
4. Robot vacuum cleaner
Admittedly, this is a more significant investment. Still, robot vacuum cleaners are vastly improved these days and save tons of time and energy doing a task that you probably don't particularly enjoy anyway! Robot vacuum cleaners have been around for a while, but today's models perform very well and go about their business automatically with minimal disruption.
Essentially, they do the vacuuming for you. You just switch it on when you're not going to be in a room for a while, and it will whizz around the floor, vacuuming until your floor is spotless. Then, when it starts to get low on battery, it will take itself back to the docking station to recharge - quite incredible!
This particular model auto-cleans, so all you have to do is turn it on and empty out the bin when it's full. If you have a smart home hub like an Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can connect it so you can turn it on when you're out or in another room. If you don't have any smart technology yet, don't worry – it still works perfectly on its own. It's a great way to save time on a tedious household chore.
5. Robotic lawnmower
Similar to the robot vacuum cleaner, you can also now get high-performance robot lawnmowers that actually work. Just like the vacuum cleaner, you simply switch it on, and it will automatically whizz around your garden and keep your lawn well-manicured. Traditional lawn mowers can be dangerous and require a lot of physical exertion as you get older, so this can be a great way to save both time and energy.
This model is also straightforward to use, can adapt its schedule based on the weather, and can even be hosed down if it gets dirty. In addition, it's built to be quiet, so it won't disturb your neighbours. You can even programme it to only trim certain parts of your garden. Finally, and perhaps best of all, you can set it to mow narrow passages or areas that are ordinarily harder to reach.
Together, robotic lawnmowers and robotic vacuum cleaners make independent living easier and may help you live in your home for longer.
6. Neck reading light
This product is a straightforward but useful gadget. Neck reading lights were created to prevent you from straining your neck if you're trying to read at night. They're handy if you're married and like to read after your partner has gone to sleep. This reading light sits comfortably around your neck and has multiple brightness settings, so you don't strain your eyes or your neck.
This is also great if you have hobbies where you need both hands, such as knitting, sewing, crochet or cross-stitch. If you're working in the dark or just on materials that are dark colours, the reading light will allow you to see what you're doing more clearly, without disturbing anyone else in the room or interfering with the TV if someone's watching.
7. Hot water dispenser
I know what you're thinking – isn't a hot water dispenser just a fancy kettle? Well, yes and no. It essentially does the same thing as a kettle (i.e. boils water) but has a few key benefits.
Naturally, as we get older, our muscles can weaken, and we can be more prone to clumsiness. As a result, everyday things like a kettle full of boiling water can be very dangerous. So, with a hot water dispenser, you avoid the hazard of having to pick up a heavy kettle full of boiling water.
It also boils far quicker than a traditional kettle, boiling a cup in under 50 seconds, so it can be a great time-saver if you're on the go and want a quick cuppa. With a removable drip tray, it's also simple and easy to clean, and it has a limescale filter, so you don't have to worry about descaling like you would with a kettle. It's more energy-efficient, time-efficient, and it's safer.
8. Fitbit fitness tracker
Exercise and staying active is vital to staying healthy as you get older. A Fitbit is a great way to keep track of your fitness, ensure you're getting enough sleep and navigate around. You can wear it if you're out for a walk, run, cycle or swim, and it will keep track of how far you go, your heart rate, and calories burned. Fitness trackers also have GPS and maps, so you don't have to worry about getting lost or needing your phone to plan your exercise route. They're easier to use than you think.
Fitness trackers are excellent wearable gadgets that might seem unnecessary, but when you grab one, it's pretty easy to see the benefits.
Fitbits can also send notifications to your phone to alert you when you need to move around or take a few extra steps to meet your quota. They also double up as a smartwatch and do everything you need a standard watch to do, like tell the time (luckily!).
Fitbit Premium, the linked subscription programme, also has excellent features like guided at-home workouts, mindfulness and meditation. This can help you keep on top of your fitness and health and help you relax, and ensure you're getting enough rest. So whatever your activity levels, a Fitbit can be a great way to help you prioritise your health and meet your goals.
9. Kindle paperwhite
For those that don't know, Kindles are e-readers - or digital books. Their screens are designed to be soft and easy on the eyes, much like paper. The main benefit is being able to store a vast range of books in one device - it's like having a library in the palm of your hand!
The Kindle Paperwhite has been on the market for a while, but Amazon has just released the new Signature Edition. The latest version has extra space so you can store more e-books and an auto-adjustable light to reduce strain on your eyes. With the backlight and anti-glare technology, you can read your favourite books in any lighting, whether you're on holiday by the pool or snuggled up in bed. It's also lightweight and easier to hold than a paperback or hardback book.
A Kindle can also save you money in the long run. Despite the upfront cost, many e-books are downloadable for free, and Kindle versions tend to be far cheaper than paper books. It's also better for the environment because you save on printing and delivering books that will take up space in your home.
10. Automatic pill dispenser
Remembering to take medication on time can be tricky for anyone. Automatic pill dispensers solve that issue wonderfully, automatically dispensing pills at set times. Automatic pill dispensers vastly improve medication adherence, ensuring that you don't miss a dose. These devices come into their own if you need to take several pills a day.
This model also rings or alarms when it's time to visit the dispenser and take the pills and locks safely to keep medication inaccessible. The lid is opaque to prevent the user from seeing the contents of the dispenser, and it can dispense pills between 1 to 6 times a day for 28 days before it has to be refilled.
Automatic pill dispensers can also support carers and those with Alzheimer's disease. Memory loss can really complicate the process of taking medication, sometimes with disastrous results when someone accidentally overdoses or forgets to take their medication altogether.
Reachers or grabbers are incredibly useful for anyone, whether they're old or young! Grabbing items from hard-to-get places like down the back of the sofa or bed is an age-old problem that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
This superb reacher is robust and easy to use, with plenty of leverage. It even has a magnetic tip to help pick up metal items, including keys. It also doubles up as a shoehorn! Grabbers are excellent for picking things up off the floor or from high-up places like shelves. They're a must-have gadget for you and could be a superb gift for elderly parents!
12. Smart speaker
Smart speakers can do much more than play your favourite music or podcast. You can use it to set cooking timers, check the weather, ask for news updates, and more, and all hands-free! If you have other smart technology, like a television or lighting, you can use the speaker as a voice-operated remote control, connecting to them via Bluetooth or WiFi. But even if you haven't invested in other smart technology yet, smart speakers are well worth it just for easy music playback and asking questions.
You can use the voice assistant inside smart speakers like Alexa to create shopping lists, set alarms, check your calendar and track deliveries. They also offer guided meditation sessions for relaxation, allow you to communicate with people in other rooms, or create routines that complete multiple functions at once. No matter your skill level with technology, a smart speaker can make your life easier, and all you need to use is your voice.
13. Back massager
Back massagers are an excellent gadget that massage your back, neck, and even your abdomen, alleviating aches and pains. Massage devices are ideal for boosting general health and quality of life, have many proven benefits, and are superb if you suffer from limited mobility. In addition, massagers soothe joint pain, and some even have built-in heat modes which encourage blood flow, aiding in joint and muscle dexterity.
Back massagers are another great buy for yourself that may also make an excellent present for elderly relatives. Still, they can take some getting used to. Always start at lower settings and work your way up, as some can be very powerful!
Most back massagers - including this device - are Shiatsu-style massagers. That means that they have rolling balls that knead the joints. If the sensation is too aggressive, you can always place a towel or blanket between your back and the massage device.
14. Can opener
Electric can openers are incredibly efficient and reliable. For elderly people who can't grip a manual can opener easily, electric can openers do the job with minimal effort. This model has 3 functions; a can opener, knife sharpener and bottle opener.
Manual can openers do the job just fine but are challenging to use even for those with minor arthritis or grip problems. Investing in an electric alternative is an easy way to fix that.
15. Blood pressure monitor
Some older adults may need to take their blood pressure periodically to monitor hypertension or other medical conditions. Modern automatic blood pressure monitors are efficient and easy to use, inflating automatically and providing both diastolic and systolic readings in an easy-to-read format.
Always ensure that you choose the correct size cuff for your arm, as this can affect their accuracy.
Smartphones are hardly a gadget anymore! Whilst older people who aren't a massive fan of going all-digital with their communications might just benefit from essential smartphone functions, including web surfing, maps, music and the camera, tech-savvy senior citizens will benefit hugely from a modern smartphone with a decent screen size.
There are a few players here, with iPhones by Apple generally going head-to-head with a whole host of Android phones. They all pretty much do the same thing, so it's more or less a matter of preference.
Social media apps are also well worth their place on your smartphone. They can help connect you to what's going on with your friends and family. Video calls are another great function of smartphones and are well-integrated with messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Technology expert Pete Scargill told us: "I'm 67, my wife is 68 and both in the UK and in our home in Spain, we know people maybe a decade older than us who would not be seen dead without their smartphone. My wife alternates between her MI Smartphone and Samsung tablet for hours on end.
"It makes absolute sense to have a decent Android Smartphone in 2022 no matter what your age, from teens whose parents need to keep in touch, through to pensioners who often live alone or live a distance from their friends. As someone who travels from one home to another, I could not imagine life without being able to connect with friends on the move.
"I remember a time a decade or so ago when I'd hear older folk say 'I use my phone as a phone' - those same people are now regularly tapping on Facebook messenger to their friends - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I write about technology regularly over at https://tech.scargill.net and I'm as fascinated by the subject now as I was as a teen."
17. Personal alarms
Personal alarms can help elderly people contact friends, family or the emergency services if they fall or otherwise have an accident or fall ill in their home. This model will keep calling a list of nominated numbers until someone picks up. If there is no answer, it will move on to the next person.
You can wear personal alarms as a pendant, which is recommended as it means you always have them to hand.