You’d think Father’s Day would be easier for a caregiver. But, caring for an older parent, we can become so familiar with the daily routine that we start to second guess our own Father’s Day gift ideas. Father’s Day marketing doesn’t help. The PERFECT GIFT! ideas seem to range from the purely functional (who wouldn’t want a piece of orthopedic equipment as a gift) to the completely whimsical (birdhouse kit anyone?).
So, what about some of that cutting-edge technology the younger set is always craving?
Earlier this year, an Israeli company announced plans for a home assistant specifically engineered to support people aging in-place. You’ll have to wait awhile before you can get your hands on one of these “Active Aging Companions,” but what about the current crop of smart speakers from Amazon, Google and now Apple? Introducing new technology to seniors is something we’ve all come to agree is a bad idea. Saturday Night Live even performed a sketch about it last season.
However, despite our own reservations, we’ve found some of the current technologies remarkably user friendly. It may take a certain level of technological literacy for the initial set-up, but after that, many of the talking digital assistants have plenty to offer.
In addition to news and weather briefs, smart speakers can play games to maintain mental acuity. The interactive games include trivia and logic as well as jokes and riddles.
The devices also make thousands of hours of information and entertainment available through playlists and podcasts. Rather than hunting for specific websites and scrolling through endless menus, the systems retrieve content directly from the source based only on the title. For example, ask it to “Play songs by Frank Sinatra,” and you’re just seconds away from a collection of the crooner’s hits. Or try “Prairie Home Companion Podcast,” and the most recent episode begins playing almost immediately.
One of our favorite uses, however, is for scheduling and reminders. It may require a little initial set-up, but linking your in-home smart speaker to a calendar (like Google Calendar or iCal) can let your loved one review the day’s agenda of reminders and appointments so there’s less room for miscommunication.
And, as far as we can tell, none of the digital assistants seems to mind being asked the same question more than once.
Gift-giving for seniors aging in place is always going to be complicated, and there’s no single perfect gift for every situation. Then again, if you think it will give your loved one greater independence and support their daily routine, you could do worse than to consider some of these user-friendly gadgets.