5 questions seniors (and their families) should ask before buying that tech

In my recent post on questions that senior living providers should ask before buying the latest and greatest technology, I outlined what providers should be asking before they implement technology in senior living communities (or what those considering senior living will want to know). But, what about the individual thinking that a device purchase will make their lives easier? How do you know what device or service to buy? Well, you’re in luck!

Here are the top five questions for individuals to ask:

  1. Why do you want it? Similar to the question what problem are you trying to solve? its important to ask if you are attracted to the “shiny and new” or if you really will use it to make your life better/easier/more enriched. For some, its a necessity to stay in touch with family and friends. For others, it may be necessary to ensure critical tasks are done, like remind you to take your medications. Whatever the reason, make sure it will be a good fit for you.
  2. What do you need the technology or service to do?  Similar to the reasons above, knowing exactly what you need the technology for and what actions you want it to perform will help narrow your search for the right piece of equipment and the right price. Sometimes getting the simpler model will mean less headache for you. Which begs the question….
  3. How quickly do you learn to use new technology? Do you need a user manual or a tutor to help you learn it? The more “features” a device has, the longer it will take you to learn how to use it. Which is why you need to identify what you want it to do, so you can get a device that is simpler if you don’t need or want all the bells and whistles. If you do need special tutoring on how to use it, call your granddaughter or the high school kid next door–chances are, they ‘ll be able to teach you in a few minutes.
  4. How much research are you willing to do? With the dawn of the internet and user reviews has come the ability to see what other people think (for better or worse). Check out Cnet or MIT Technology Review for credible tech reviews and information. These sites exist to help consumers make sense of technology that is forever changing.
  5. What kind of infrastructure or additions will I need to use it? A lot of devices assume that you have a wi-fi network, the ability (and know-how) to create a user profile or account, and that you know the difference between when you’re using wi-fi and when you’re using cellular data. Make sure you ask what other accessories or requirements you’ll need to make it work. It may seem silly to ask does it come with headphones and a charger? But, with more wireless charging devices and really cheap headphones available, you will want to make sure you’re prepared for both additional cost and eliminating headache when it comes to getting set up. This includes reading the fine print of contracts. Always know what you’re agreeing to when you sign up for a service and what you will be charged if you decide to cancel.

Have a technology-related question? Post your questions in the comments and I’ll help you get pointed in the right direction! Happy tech-ing!


About the Author: Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to eight years of learning the senior living industry in roles ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director of Sales and Marketing to unofficial IT coordinator. Possibilities also led her into the world of education technology for almost three years. Now, on her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with the people that care for others. She lives in Eugene with her husband, Michael, where they enjoy golf, travel, and volunteering.

FIVE really cool gifts to buy for Grandma and Grandpa!

Black Friday  is at the end of this week after Thanksgiving.  What to get for grandma and grandpa?    The lists of things to buy are usually lotions, and socks, and slippers, and grocery gift cards – all which are good!   But I was thinking…. what do elders really want?

My grandchildren say I am ‘really cool’ because I stay connected with them on Facebook, Instagram, texting, phone, and Snapchat.   I don’t know about cool, but I am grateful that in my elder years I can continue to be part of the greater community and my family even when the day comes that I cannot travel as I can now. So I asked the elders I come in contact with around the United States What do you want?   And their answers were the same as mine!

  • To spend quality time with friends and family.
  • To have a purposeful life.
  • To maintain independence in choice.
  • To  continue learning and growing.
  • To have joy and spontaneity.
  • To have peace of mind.

The greatest gift you can give is a way for your loved one to stay connected.   You might be surprised how savvy elders can be with a quick tutorial on tablets and iPads and smart phones.

There are some things that are important to consider, if you are thinking about technology gifts.

  • Wi-fi must be set up in the senior’s home.  If living in a senior housing community, most have free wi-fi.
  • It is important to have someone to to tutor and  build a relationship during the learning process to navigate the device.  Grandchildren, friends, or if in a Senior housing community, the Millennial care-team members and their volunteer teams are great resources.

FIVE REALLY COOL GIFTS FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA

  1. TABLETS AND IPADS: These all-in-one devices are in many ways perfect for seniors with their touch-screen technology and large print options.   The touch screen allows the elder to access apps easily with a tap of the finger.
  • Facebook–  In our senior housing communities, I have seen the joy on the faces of elders who are connecting with Facebook website on computer screengrandchildren and long lost friends.  One of our Millennial care team members showed an 87 year old elder how to do a video chat on Facebook with her son.  It made her day!   The next morning, when I came into the community, she told me, “I got 8 likes last night!”  Friends she had not connected with in 40 years had found her and connected!
  • Learning and researching–  I talked with a 92 year old man  sitting in the living room with earphones and the tablet watching youtube videos about how to care for plants, as he advised us on the landscaping.  He told me, “This has opened a world of new information to me!”
  • Google earth– Want to ‘walk down the street’ of your childhood home, or visit places in the world?  Some of our teams have hooked a laptop or a tablet to a computer and taken a tour of the world. One woman, who was born in France was able to virtually visit her home town!
  • Cost: Tablets cost between $129$300 depending on the brand.

2.  SMART PHONE: Phones are not only important for keeping the social connection, and necessary for quality of life — but also give elders peace of mind. Many smartphones  offer large buttons, speed dial, visual rings and more.

  •  Samsung Jitterbug is available on Amazon.com for $60.
  •  If your family has a a ‘family plan’ with your provider, you can add grandma or grandpa for $20 – $40  a month, and purchase the phone on an installment plan.
  • Several residents and care team members were chatting with Mrs. Jackson who had just received  a new iPhone from her family.   Jasmine, a care team member,  talked about ‘Face time’, so  we asked Mrs. Jackson if she had her grandson’s phone number in her phone.  She did, and Jasmine showed her how to make a Facetime call.  When the grandson answered he saw faces of  of his grandma and all of her friends and  care team members  excited about the connection!
  • Add ear phones to the gift, and show grandma or grandpa how to access their favorite music too!

3. DIGITAL PHOTOS:  With most of our photos on social media these days, we don’t often take the time to print photos.

  • Digital photo frames are available from $34 to about $110 (which also supports video), depending on what size and capacity you want.
  • Another nice option is to use Shutterfly, where you can upload your photos from Facebook or other social media, or directly from your phone or computer to create a traditional photo album with captions. The photo book  can be mailed directly to your grandpa and grandma to enjoy.  Depending on the size of the book, the cost can be $25 – and up.

4.  IPOD OR MP3 PLAYER & HEADPHONESStudies have proven that music has a powerful therapeutic benefit for all people, and particularly elders.

  • Purchase head phones for $15+ depending on the quality.
  • Purchase an MP3 player or iPod shuffle.  The cost is between $20-$50.
  • Download a song list of music you know that your grandparent loves.

If you haven’t seen the documentary ‘Alive Inside’, it is available on Netflix, and we have seen the power of music to alleviate depression, improve memory, and enhance life!

5.  AMAZON ECHO DOT: Cost  $50.   This is my newest best friend, and I have one in my home office.    In the morning I can say, “Alexa good morning, what is the weather like today?”  She gives a weather forecast.  I can ask what the time is.  I can ask Alexa to play my favorite music.  I can even order through my Amazon Prime account.  “Alexa, add sugar to my cart”.    I can also say, “Alexa, tell me a joke” (they are not very funny!), or “Alexa, what’s in the headlines today?  or  “Alexa set a timer for 10 minutes”.   This week, as I was experimenting with this, I thought this might  be nice for an elder to have in his or her home, especially if visually impaired.  If you have a ‘smart home’, you can also say, “Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room”, or  “Alexa, lock the front door.”

I found a funny video of elders learning to talk with Alexa.

I had to add this  to my “Cool list” today


Technology is here to stay, and the elders I talk with are excited about the possibilities of leading a more vibrant connected life in this new era.  Yes, some say, “I am too old for this.”   But as soon as a connection is made, it is amazing to see how purpose, connection, spontaneity, and joy is evident in their lives!

Another documentary available on Netflix I have been following is ‘Cyber Seniors”  watch the trailer here.   Happy Holiday Shopping!


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.  Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.