Lately, I’ve been struggling with some cognitive dissonance in my life. On the one hand, I like to think of myself as fiercely independent and unabashedly self-reliant.
I pride myself on figuring things out on my own. If I can’t find a solution, I MacGyver one. I definitely don’t need any mansplaining.
On the other hand, I willingly accept woman-splaining — no, I ask for it — on a daily basis, from my personal assistant, Alexa. Each morning, she schools me on the latest political strife or drama before I scroll through the absurdity on my screen.
She performs rudimentary arithmetic operations that I could probably calculate in my head, but which seem too Herculean a task before coffee.
She talks to me about the weather — and not just about how sunny or dreary the day is expected to be, but how much pollen is in the air so I can stuff my pockets with Kleenex accordingly.
This dainty robot-at-the-ready even rescues me from my own flightiness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve misplaced my phone inside my apartment, and a simple, “Alexa, call my phone” leads me right to it (spoiler alert: it’s usually under the couch cushions).
But Alexa’s versatility does have some limits. I misplace my keys just as often as I lose my phone, and my keyring is trickier to find. But the last time I pleaded, “Alexa, find my keys,” she simply responded, “Sorry, I didn’t find anything named ‘keys.’”
While I always locate them eventually, the situation throws me into a panic. I’m talking full-on existential dread. If I’m having this much trouble finding my keys in my 30s, how much more difficult will my life be a few decades from now, when I may be confronting senility?
Not to worry, it seems — there’s an app for that. Actually, a few. As people are living longer, technology is getting smarter. Equipped with the right gadgets, you might never lose your keys again.
And even better, if you’re a caregiver to an aging relative, you may be able to keep track of your wandering loved one, too.
So hold that Silver Alert! These high-tech devices can change your life, whether you’re an aging adult, a caregiver to the elderly, or even an absent-minded millennial like me.
How had I not discovered this nifty little search device sooner? This handy-dandy gadget clips on easily to your keyring, your wallet, your purse, or any other item you’re prone to lose. Basically, you sync the AirTag with your iPhone and, when you need to locate it, you launch the Find My app to sound an alert on the AirTag’s built-in speaker. If you’ve lost your belongings outside your home, the Find My app will show you precisely where they are on a map. The only catch? If you’ve left your phone behind as well, you may be out of luck.
No iPhone? No problem. Android users lose things, too. This Bluetooth tracker serves mostly the same function as the AirTag, except it’s compatible across platforms. If you have the Amazon Echo, you can ask Alexa to ring to your Mate directly, and she’ll be quick to acquiesce. The Tile Mate can also find your misplaced smartphone, as long as it’s within Bluetooth range. And just like the AirTag, if your belongings are farther away, the Tile Mate will show you their most recent location on a map.
Losing your keys is a nuisance; losing a person is an emergency. But thanks to this water- resistant tracker, it’s one that is preventable. The 4G SmartSole is sealed inside a trimmable shoe insert, which you can place inside your aging loved one’s sneakers. It’s totally discreet in case you have a stubborn relative who insists on independence, but still has a tendency to wander off. The downside? You have to charge the device daily, and it requires a service plan like your smartphone. Still, that’s a minor inconvenience compared to a countywide search-and-rescue mission.
Let’s face it, the pandemic has made it difficult for everyone to keep track of what month we’re in, let alone which day of the week. I can only imagine the frustration for older adults who struggled before the pandemic. But this wide-screen, digital alarm clock “clearly spells out the time, period of the day, full day of the week, month, and date in large, clear letters with no confusing abbreviations.” The clock can be programmed with up to five daily alarms, which is especially useful for seniors who need frequent reminders to take their medications. The technology is perfect for anyone suffering from memory decline, vision loss, or both — and it even makes a great gift for your loved one, as the product purposely excludes any references to these age-related maladies.
It’s hard enough for a group of people in one living room to agree on what to watch on TV. But once you’ve formed a consensus, it’s even harder to agree on the appropriate volume level, especially if you’re watching with someone who has developed hearing loss. These wireless headphones, compatible with most modern TVs, let your aging loved ones crank up the volume to their preferred level without disturbing others in the household — and without having to fiddle too much with their chirping hearing aids.
We all know that cheesy LifeCall commercial from the 80s — the elderly woman cries, “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” The reality is that older adults are especially susceptible to falls, but less than half of seniors who have fallen inform their doctors. The Lively Mobile Plus is a clip-on medical alert device that can connect with Urgent Response agents through a 4G cellular network in case of emergency. Like the 4G SmartSole, this device requires a monthly service plan; the “Ultimate Plan” includes fall detection if worn with a special lanyard. The features of this technology are pretty basic, but they suit the purpose of keeping it uncomplicated for users.
Seniors who are more tech-savvy can set their snazzy smartwatches to protect them from falls. The Apple Watch Series 4 and newer models include a fall-detection feature that can be toggled on and off within the Emergency SOS setting of the app. When the watch detects a hard fall, the device can connect with emergency services and alert your contacts of your precise location. By default, the fall-detection function is enabled for any user who has self-identified as age 55 or older during setup — but feel free to turn it on manually if you’re just klutzy like me.
I have to admit, when I saw the infomercial for this product last Christmas, I wished my grandparents were still alive so I could buy them one. This senior-friendly tablet prides itself on its large buttons, intuitive interface, steady stylus, and simple features that make it easy for older adults to connect with their loved ones. GrandPad users can video-chat and share memories through photos, videos, and voice memos. Basically, this tablet is a simplified iPad, with all of the features that build connection and none of the ones that promote distraction. That’s why, of all the gadgets on this list, the GrandPad wins my heart the most. With its unique focus on emotional health, it provides the best chance for seniors to not just survive, but thrive.
How have you used technology to improve the lives of aging loved ones? Share your experiences in the comments!
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