9 Tech Tools to Improve a Senior’s Quality of Life

older couple

1. Audio Books. Whether the problem is finding time to read—or finding those missing reading glasses (again!)—seniors can enjoy thousands of titles with Audible, Audiobooks.com , and other online sources. Access free and paid books on your smartphone or tablet and listen while cleaning house, driving, exercising or relaxing. Free apps. (Android and iOS)

2. Local Library. Most libraries now offer extensive collections of virtual media, including ebooks, movies, music, audio books, and even periodicals. Once set up, borrowers can have full access to available materials from anywhere without a trip to the library. Call your local library to determine which tech products and operating systems are supported.

3. Text to Speech Tools. Anyone facing a temporary or permanent speech difficulty can use text to speech (TTS) apps to “talk” to others via the keyboard on their tablet or smartphone. Popular options include Speak It (free for Android) and Speak it! 2 ($1.99 for iOS).

4. Text to Speech Readers. Apps like Web Reader hD and Natural Reader let users select text on a web page or in an email message and other documents then listen to a natural-sounding digital voice read the words back to them. Free and paid options. (Android and iOS)

5. Video Calls. With Skype or Google hangouts seniors can see (and be seen by) others and add visual contact to their voice communications.
A nice way to “check in” regularly. Free apps. (Android and iOS)

6. Ringing Flashlight. A smartphone app that makes the camera’s flash light blink when a call is coming in or an SMS message is received, even if the ringer is turned off. Free. (Android and iOS)

7. Helpouts by Google. Get “real help from real people in real time” from your computer, tablet or smartphone. Enjoy personal one-on-one instruction, troubleshooting help, advice, and/or training.
From art classes and music lessons to setting
up computer networks, plumbing a new sink, or performing the perfect yoga pose. Some classes are free, some paid.

8. Smartlocks and Doorbells. The DoorBot doorbell (getdoorbot.com) lets you to see who’s at the door from anywhere (even if you’re not at home). Goji Smart Lock (gojiaccess.com) lets you unlock your door with your phone, give “virtual keys” to others and limit access by time and date. And, as a security measure, it will take a photo of anyone accessing your door.

9. Household Cleaning. Vacuums from iRobot (Roomba) and its competitors keep floors swept effortlessly while the Scooba (and similar devices) can scrub floors clean. That’s high tech, but pretty old school and affordable these days. Did you know, however, that newer robots helping around the house now include (also from iRobot) a pool vacuum called Mirra and an automatic gutter cleaner named Looj? From Ecovacs you can buy Winbot, a suction-driven robot that cleans windows!

SRES® • March/April 2014