I sometimes think there must be a deep psychological reason for my love of gadgets, but I suspect it’s probably just innate laziness. Gadgets make life easier and more fun. The problem with many tech gadgets for people over 60 (or 40 for that matter) is that they’re so hard to use. Even some of the gadgets that are most useful for us older folks have either tiny controls that make you squint, complicated and incomprehensible instructions or other senior unfriendly features.
So I put out a request on an Internet list serve offering to review innovative gadgets for that are useful seniors and received a slew of stuff – good, bad and worse than indifferent.
The first thing I noticed was that the more useless and badly designed the product, the more elaborate and hard to manage was the packaging. Did these manufacturers think they’re fancy packaging would hide their products’ bad design?
I got Bluetooth speakers that I could not operate, even with the help of a techie friend; a smart lock and home security system that looked very impressive, but did not come with instructions and would probably cost a fortune to install; a flimsy car windshield holder for my smartphone that didn’t fit the phone; and a pair of earbuds that fell out of my ears. All of these products were overpriced. What did I learn from this exercise? You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good gadgets. I have earbuds, a Bluetooth speaker and car mount for my phone that each cost under $20 and work fine.
There were some winners, however. Here are four that passed muster.
[Disclosure: Several brands, including all of the brands below, provided free products to Senior Planet for consideration. We decided which of the products to review based on merit.]
Getting older means getting blinder. My usual penny-wise and pound foolish approach has led me to purchase multiple cheap clip-on lights to illuminate my work area. Not only do the bulbs burn out fast, but the whole thing always falls on the floor and breaks more often than not. This high tech, sturdy LED light from Uberlight is the perfect solution. It clips firmly onto the back of my computer table and has an array of 20 tiny LED lights that can be adjusted to two brightness levels to avoid glare. The light has a computerized transformer that Uberlight claims keeps the bulbs burning for 60,000 hours. Will I even live that long? While individual LED bulbs are still astronomical, this handy light isn’t even that expensive: $59.95 at Amazon
Tablet Tail-Monkey Kit
This strange looking tablet holder is basically a long, bendable “monkey tail” made out of heavy duty flexible metal. Its suction device attaches to your tablet, propping it up in an almost infinite variety of positions so you don’t have to hold it. You can twist the monkey tail to use it in bed, on an exercise machine, on a recliner, a desk – wherever you happen to be. I had a hell of a time figuring out how to assemble and use it, but this series of videos on YouTube helped. (It seems that YouTube videos have become the latest in customer service strategies for helping purchasers figure out how to assemble stuff.) $69.99 at Amazon.
Smart Finder 4-in-1
This is an easy, low tech solution to a really nagging problem – lost keys, remotes, tablets, smartphones, even dogs. It comes with a color-coded base that you hang from the wall and four tags in matching colors that you can attach to your most frequently lost objects. Unlike most finder-type gadgets, which involve using a smartphone app (how are you supposed to use your phone to find your phone?), this extremely handy gadget does what your cordless phone base does: It issues a remote beep to help you find your lost item. The only problem with it is that it only has four tags, and I lose much more stuff than that. $29.95 on Amazon
Wahl Hot-Cold Massage Vibrating Gel Pack
I’ve had a lot of hot/cold packs and a couple of massagers, but none combined the two functions. This clever gadget consists of a large, thick gel pack with a pocket for a battery-powered vibrating disc and velcro straps for holding it in place, so you get a hot or cold massage while heating or cooling your aching muscles. (Just be careful not to put the vibrating disc in the microwave along with the gel pack.) It does seem to help my arthritic shoulder. $14.99 on Amazon.
Do you have any favorite gadgets? Please share them with us here.