Friday, June 17, 2022

Thrifty Tech for the Aging

Proper tools can overcome some of the limits of aging. 

What are those limits and tools?

The KEY and basic limitation is limited ACCESS.   We start to lose access to many of our normal pursuits.

BUT there is technology out there to help.

Consider where you live as to whether it gives you the access you need to services and resources.   Can you get to what you need easily?

The newest universal access resource is of course, Internet, which brings us closer to everything.  A simple Kindle Fire 8 inch tablet at less than $50 it’s all we really need if cost is in question.

The Fire does offer a subset of capabilities which can be largely offset by adding four files which give access to the entire Android library of apps and tools.

There are other access tools…More about non-Internet tools and technology below.

You really don’t need anything else but it is very handy to have some other internet access.    You don’t need Windows or Macintosh unless you really really want them.   (Yes I have a big HP touchscreen Windows 11 laptop.)

A much underused Internet resource is YouTube, which I always consult when trying to figure out how to do something or enter into someone else’s world for a time. Or for going to a concert online.   Also much underused is the Internet Archive.   Want to listen to the old radio programs from the 30s.  They are there with much music and video

A Kindle Fire TV at $100 will provide a larger dkisplay but your own TV can probably receive casts from the above tablet.

A Moto G cell phone with a year's service from TracFone is available on HSN for $70.   It could be an alternative to the Kindle Fire above.

Expensive phones have stunning graphics and photography for those who want it.   I won’t pay for that, but it can be impressive.

You can also get free cell phone service from Textnow using an unlocked phone. Data service will cost you $10.     Ting offers service at $10 a month for phoning but charges only when you use data.

A more expensive and elegant alternative to these is an iPad, often selling for $250-330.  A benefit here is widespread use and help.   There are less expensive folding chromebooks for laptop and tablet use.

What about physical access in the world around you?

Light weight scooters and walkers have much appeal if you cannot walk safely.  Easy transfer to car is desirable as is the ability to carry items.

Many seniors are unaware that there are walkers which prevent you from falling, such as the Lifeglider or Zeen.   I find the conventional walker to be a bad choice because it fosters bad posture and strain on muscles.  I fell backward one day twice with one.

Note that some wheelchairs come with removable wheels for easy transport. There are also lightweight wheelchairs with magnesium bodies.

Now to smaller “access” tools.

Alexa is dirt cheap and makes it easy to access information without a computer as well as control lights and other devices remotely.

With Alexa one small lamp in the bedroom can illuminate from one percent to 100% of a 100 W bulb and so illuminate the whole room or just light faintly at the bedside when getting up at night.   That just takes a cheap programmable bulb and does away with too many lights taking space in one room.

Battery lamps are portable.   These are handy if you have a less than $100 big screen projector which works only in a dark room.

Simple things such as stick-on door handles at the center of doors make it easier to open and close from a wheelchair.

I might add that any of these Internet devices will access TV with the proper apps.  I use Watchnewspro for the networks. Podcasts offer recorded shows.   TV channels and networks have their own apps.

With the Internet being so important, our apartment is under a carpet Ethernet cable line to provide fast Internet wherever it is used, including on laptops.  Wi-Fi is just plain too slow.

To accommodate so many devices I use a plug-in which extends one non switched outlet to six sockets. General Electric makes it.

Back to other devices.    The latest electric blankets can even be voice or phone controlled.

I use enclosed bamboo boxes to enclose surge strips and cabling and make cleaning easier.

To conserve space, a bedside table can serve for storage and as a laptop desk, as done in the local hospital.    That is also a good place for a projector, in a good room with blackout curtains for projection.    Cheap blackout curtains slide along a simple pole rod.

Speaking of cheap, I consult Amazon, Walmart, Costco, and eBay whenever I buy anything.    I also sell on Amazon and eBay.    Replacements is a good place to sell china.

With eBay it is a good idea to correspond by email with the seller before buying or bidding.    With some trepidation I bought a very lightweight mobility scooter directly from the factory in China through eBay.    It is great but all the instructions are in Chinese.

I have found eBay to be a good source of such items as stretch socks, toothbrush inserts, polo shirts, even iPhone, but checking out the latter very carefully.    I am very fond of the iPhone SE but unwilling to pay the normal retail cost.    eBay has always made good when something has been unsatisfactory, but take care.

There are devices to assist with hearing.    Sennheiser TV headphones are the Cadillac.  They look cheap, cost a lot, but work very well.     There are some good cheap alternatives…

For the hearing impaired some hearing aids enable sending and sound from TV or Internet or even from a smartphone itself.

I do see internet devices out there advertised as designed specifically for seniors. Forget them.    You cannot beat an iPad for ease-of-use.    Windows 11 is improving and a must for a new Windows user.     

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