July 13, 2010 -- Technology and gadget companies are recognizing the unique needs of an aging population. We look at the best gear for the over-sixty crowd.
Large Font e-Readers
The most popular new gadgets for seniors (and the rest of the population) are e-readers. The Kindle was the first to break into the mainstream population, Sony and Barnes & Noble make their own devices, and the iPad has recently captured the interest of many. The merits of each device are primarily sorted into price, inventory of titles, and ease of use.
But for those with low or diminished vision, which reader provides the best opportunity for them to keep reading as their sight decline?
The Amazon Kindle DX and the iPad boast 9.7 inch screens. The iPad's font can be increased to what appears to my eye to be about 15 percent larger than the largest Kindle font.
The real advantage to the iPad comes in the contrast. Because the iPad is backlit the creen is a vivid white and the letters a deep black. You can also reverse that so the screen is black and the letters are white.
The Kindle has a grey background and black letters, which are easy on the eyes but lack the contrast of the iPad. The smaller 6-inch Kindle 2 does not scale its font as big as the DX, so for size and contrast the iPad is a clear winner.
Where the iPad falters is outdoors. It is harder to manage glare in direct sunlight with the iPad. The Kindle is very easy to read outdoors.
Also, the iPad's battery is about 10 hours where the Kindle's battery life is 2 weeks if the wireless is turned off and a week when the wireless is on.
Big Key Keyboard $126
Typing gets tougher as vision and dexterity decrease. the Big Keys keyboard helps with both of those things. As the name suggests, the actual keys themselves are bigger to prevent typos and errors. The keys are well marked and even have overlays in yellow if the contrast of black and white is too difficult to see.
Caller Announcing Large View Telephone $129
This is a home cordless telephone that has 50 percent bigger buttons than traditional phones, louder call amplification including enhanced high-range sounds which can be most difficult for people with hearing loss to discern, and it has a big display for caller ID. One of the most interesting features of this phone is that it can audibly announce who is calling.
The Jitterbug phone has a simple, easy-to-use interface, big buttons and a large display. It has powerful speakers for loud ringtones and clear call quality. The phone can be used with budget conscious pay-as-you-go plans and it has 24-hour tech support if the user needs help with a function or task.
Printers With Own E-Mail Address
Hewlett-Packard Printers starting at $99
HP has announced that all of its all-in-one printers that have Internet connections will now also have unique e-mail addresses. The benefit here is that if an aging parent has a computer and an Internet connection, they may not always want to go through the hassle of booting up the computer to read an e-mail. Or they may prefer to read on paper as opposed to on-screen. A remote friend or adult child can send e-mails, articles, even pictures to the printer's e-mail address and they will automatically print out. This takes the extra step of the computer out of the equation and it's almost like children or grandchildren are faxing things to grandma from their computers.
Sonic Shaker Alarm Clock starting at $24.95
Waking up in the morning is hard, but when you are hearing-impaired and don't sleep with a hearing aid, a VERY loud alarm clock may be required. the Sonic shaker alarm clock offers a tactile alternative by providing a round vibrating pod that you can place near your pillow or on the bedside table to shake you awake.
Biobrite Sunrise Clock $124.95
A more gentle option is the BioBrite alarm clock that gradually turns on a very bright light to wake you. It may not be jarring enough for heavy sleepers, but if you are a light sleeper and want a gentle visual wakeup, the BioBrite is a good option
Moshi Alarm Clock from $25.98
The Moshi alarm clock is great for people who have dexterity problems and hate the little controls on most alarm clocks. Instead of fumbling with the hour and minute buttons on the clock, you simply use voice commands to set the alarm and the time. Moshi repeats your commands back to you and shows you the time the alarm is set for to assure you that the voice recognition really worked.
Gadgets for Seniors
Electric Corkscrew $30.57
The Electric Rabbit takes the pulling out of opening a wine bottle. You hit a button and the screw worms into the cork. Then, without any leverage or tugging, the rechargeable-battery operated device pulls the cork out.
The Ring Pen $8.95
The Ring pen is a simple plastic pen that has a large ring in the middle of it for your pointer finger. Instead of gripping the pen between your forefinger and thumb, the guidance of the pen is done entirely with the forefinger. The thumb just holds it in place.
Web Extra Gadgets
Dog Walker's Dumbells $59.95
Boomers and seniors love their dogs. Research shows that the only proven way to stave off dementia is through exercise. So why not beef up your dog walks with a retractable leash and canvas dog-waste bag that are also dumb-bell weights? Do dumbbell curls and triceps extensions to increase your heart rate as you walk.
Automatic Pill Grinder $29.95
Taking big pills can be tough, and often prescriptions for medicines mandate taking half a pill. The Power Pill Grinder takes the work out of mortaring or halving pills and it's small enough to take with you wherever you go.