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Joy Loverde

Professional Eldercare Expert

Best Older Adult Communication Enhancers, Communication Technology

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Guess who’s coming to dinner? Guess who’s not? Older adults who choose to make good use of technology as a means to communicate with others are the ones who are more likely to stay connected, informed, and engaged. Unfortunately, people who turn their backs on technology and communication devices are, quite frankly, left out of the loop.

These days, successfully aging people can add the liberal use of technology-enhanced communication devices as a means to live a happier, healthier lifestyle. No longer considered add-ons or luxury items, daily doses of e-mail exchanges, talking on cell phones, text messaging, “Googling” lost acquaintances, listening to music on iPods, blogging, online support groups, cyber games, sending and receiving digital photos, and searching the Internet are every bit as critical to one’s own physical and emotional well being as diet and exercise.

Studies reveal that the elderly American population is the fastest growing market for computer usage. It’s no wonder since they are quickly discovering that technology is helping them to keep up with the rest of the world and stay close to those they love. Devices that assist in the process of writing, reading, talking, seeing, thinking, hearing and telephoning are keeping older adults connected as well as more independent. An apple a day may keep the doctor away: but people who are staying close to friends and family, keeping the mind active, laughing, and having a sense of humor are living longer, healthier, and more satisfied lives.

A ten-year MacArthur Foundation study has proven, without a doubt, that a successful-aging healthstyle is a direct result of lifestyle choices rather than genetics or other factors beyond our control. Roger Landry, M.D., President of Masterpiece Living warns us that “not being socially connected raises the risk of dying prematurely. On the other hand, social connectivity enhances the immune system and therefore protects us from disease.”

Thanks to the times we live in and the wonders of technology, it’s becoming easier to communicate with others. The world is changing, and more changes will come in the future. Exploring the many ways to help our elderly loved ones “stay in the inner circle” will be of great benefit to us all.

Best Communication Enhancers for Older Adults by Joy Loverde

The Best You Can Get

  • Presto! You’re Connected

    Joy says: Long ago, you and I were indoctrinated into a world of e-mail, Blackberry, Wi-fi, and video conferencing while at the same time our elderly loved ones increasingly became strangers to this brave new world. If an elderly person in your life continues to shun the thought of anything computer related (or worst yet, owns a computer that is doing nothing more than collecting dust), then Presto is the answer.

    The Presto service and printing mailbox makes it easy for people to enjoy e-mail without a computer. Plug in the printing mailbox, set up an e-mail account, and your elderly loved ones receive daily e-mails, including digital photos that are automatically printed on standard plain paper.

    Easy to share, easy to receive, your older family members and friends never need to be left out of the loop again. Presto makes a wonderful and unique gift.

  • Ring Pen

    Joy says: Many of us take for granted the simple process of holding a pen. We pick it up, the words flow and we never give it a second thought. Handling a pen can be difficult and tiring for people with arthritis and other dexterity problems. People may also have difficulty using a pen because of loss of sensation in their hands and fingertips. Many older adults enjoy writing letters and signing greeting cards as a way to communicate with grandchildren and long-time friends. They also like the freedom of addressing the envelopes themselves. Perhaps purchasing The Ring Pen is the answer.

    The ring pen takes most of the 'shake' and muscle pain out of handling a pen and removes pressure from the wrist and joints while writing. One finger through the ring creates a solid grip and the ergonomically designed barrel provides a natural resting place for the writing finger. Barrel fits snuggly between two other fingers. No pressure, no pain.

  • Energizer EZ Change

    Joy says: With the booming growth of America's elderly population, the number of people with hearing loss is expected to double to more than 50 million by 2020. Surprisingly, only one in four people with hearing problems today currently wears a hearing aid, in part due to the social stigma and inconvenience of caring for the devices. When you can’t hear, you can’t connect!

    One of the most frustrating tasks for mature adults who wear hearing aids, particularly for those with vision and dexterity problems, is changing the small batteries that power them. Few people realize how difficult it is to change a hearing aid battery until they try it themselves. The batteries are tiny, especially the sizes required for the smaller, more advanced hearing aids. Many elderly hearing aid users have dexterity and vision problems that cause them to drop, fumble, or lose the batteries when they are trying to change them, which can be as often as 50-100 times a year depending on the number of hearing aids they wear.

    The Energizer® EZ Change™ hearing aid battery dispenser eliminates the need to handle hearing aid batteries or tabs, making it easy to precisely place the tiny hearing aid batteries into the hearing aid quickly and accurately every time. The Energizer® EZ Change™ simplifies the process of replacing hearing aid batteries by allowing the user to insert a fresh battery directly from the dispenser into the hearing aid, without having to pick up or hold onto the battery or remove the tiny tab. A magnetic arm allows for precise placement in the hearing aid every time and eliminates the need to touch the battery. In addition, the EZ Change keeps the batteries secure, so no more loose batteries in pockets or purses.

    Elderly people with hearing loss often feel alienated because of the problem, and may respond by pulling back from family and friends. Hearing aids help people with hearing loss maintain two critical lifestyle functions – maintaining independence and staying connected with others.

  • Jitterbug

    Joy says: In the early days, cell phones were easy to use. Perhaps the fact that they were the size of a brick had something to do with it. As cellular went digital, great new telephone products came on the market, and seemingly overnight we had instant access to cameras and videos, Internet connection, and text messaging on our cell phones. Problem is all this innovation and new technology left a large segment of the senior population behind.

    When cell phones shrunk to the size of a credit card, older consumers complained that the keypad is hard to see, the unit itself is confusing to operate and difficult to hear on, and handling the phone itself is a nightmare. Consequently convincing elderly family members that a cell phone is something they can’t live without may be an impossible goal.

    There is a solution for older adults who struggle with cell phones. The Jitterbug is a simplified cell phone that features large buttons, a comfortable ergonomic shape, simple operation (no confusing icons), easy-to-read text, and a cushion that cups around the ear to improve sound quality and a volume control. The phone also offers pre-programmed buttons for one-touch calling. People want simplicity, and this telephone product may be the answer to helping our elderly loved ones to stay connected with family and friends.

  • Picture Phone

    Joy says: The need for older people to communicate effectively over the phone is critical. Whether your elders have visual impairments, are hard of hearing, need a voice amplifier, or have difficulty remembering telephone numbers, the Clarity P400 Amplified Phone is the perfect answer.

    Special features include amplification of incoming sounds, nine programmable photo-memory buttons, a bright flashing-light ring indicator, large high-contrast keypad, battery backup, hearing aid-compatible, and comes with a one-year warranty.

You will be happy with any of these

  • USB Flash Drive

    Joy says: USB flash drives are convenient little communication gadgets. Next to moving files between non-networked computers, the next best usage is that they offer older adults the opportunity to communicate in the event that they cannot speak for themselves.

    Being organized is a life-saving caregiving strategy when a loved one is unexpectedly hospitalized. Let the information that has been downloaded onto the flash drive speak for itself.

    Download prescription medication usage, emergency contacts, doctors’ phone numbers, insurance information, food allergies, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, power of attorney for health care, and attach the flash drive to a key chain that elderly loved ones carry with them wherever they go.

  • Krown Amplified Ringer with Strobe

    Joy says: Hearts skip a beat when we call our elderly loved ones only to have our telephone call go unanswered. Thoughts start to race. “Did something bad happen to Mom? Where could Dad be at this hour of the night? Why aren’t they answering the phone when I know they’re home?”

    Hearing impaired elderly people run the risk of missing important telephone calls when they can’t hear the ringer for one reason or another. The Krown Amplified Ringer with Strobe monitors the telephone line and the bright strobe light flashes to alert the hearing impaired person of an incoming call. Also, includes an amplified ringer so that calls are rarely missed again.

    Easy installation, requires three AA batteries, and can be mounted on the wall.

  • VOISTA Digital Voice Amplifier

    Joy says: People who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and virtually any condition that leaves the vocal chords weakened or paralyzed often find using their voice as a way to communicate with others a laborious task. The Voista Digital Voice Amplifier is the perfect solution for those who are experiencing significant voice-loss due to medical reasons - or anyone who simply needs to amplify their voice.

    The Voista hands-free voice amp from Nexon is super light (ten ounces with battery), and provides the user with clearly amplified audio output. Easy to use, this voice amplifier also comes with a wide array of accessories, a stylish carrying bag, and the option of using a waist or shoulder strap or the convenient belt clip attachment. A rechargeable battery can keep your elders talking for up to 30-hours. Comes in black or white.

    The best news is Voice Amplifiers are approved by Medicare as well as most private insurance agencies. Reimbursement amounts for these items differ due to deductibles, plan structure, and medical necessity.

  • BigKeys LX Computer Keyboard

    Joy says: Everything about this keyboard is BIG and BRIGHT – big keys, bright colors, big letters, and big numbers. Elderly people who are visually impaired or have dexterity challenges will find using this keyboard an absolute delight.

    BigKeys LX is a standard-sized keyboard and includes all of the special characters with the exception of the numeric keypad, Scroll Lock, and Pause/Break.

    Five models to choose from – multi-color, black, white, QWERTY key order, and ABC key order. No special software required. Just plug BigKeys LX into your computer in place of the standard keyboard. Extra-long, non-coiled cable is included. Mac compatibility.

    Anyone with advanced keyboard needs will benefit from the large, brightly-colored keys.

  • The Hug

    Joy says: Does Grandma need a hug? Perhaps “The Hug” can help. Robots are improving the lives of elderly people every day, and with the use of sensing and wireless phone technology, this soft, huggable pillow provides a physical touch and social and emotional support for distant family members.

    The pillow is about the size of a throw pillow and shaped like a person about to give a hug, with two arms reaching up and out from a small torso. The material is velour, making it soft and plush and pleasing to the touch.

    Here’s how it works: Let’s say your daughter wants to send a hug to her grandfather. She squeezes the left paw of her Hug; then speaks her grandfather’s name into a microphone hidden in the top of the torso. The Hug automatically calls up Grandpa’s Hug (his Hug lights up and plays a sound) who then squeezes the left paw of his Hug to accept your daughter’s hug and create a direct link between the two pillows. If grandpa’s not home, she can leave a message including one that sends vibration patterns like a hug.

    As powerful as it is, technology alone cannot create fulfilling relationships. While technology has enabled us to “communicate” with others more efficiently, there’s simply no substitute for the occasional warm hug and the physical interaction that naturally comes with visiting our family members in person.

    • The Hug is still in development stages and not yet ready for the open market. Keep your eyes and ears open for The Hug launch day!

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