For many families, December marks the beginning of a mad rush to find the “perfect gift” for a loved one, whether that is in celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any of the many important dates that round out the December calendar. This year, perhaps more so than in the last several years, families will likely be hoping to gather together in celebration of the season. But what if you can’t? There are plenty of reasons families may not be able to celebrate the holidays all in the same room but we have some thoughts on how you can still be “together” and find the “perfect gift” for the seniors in your life. The holidays have us thinking about technology and how technology really is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year through.

There are many reasons you might not be together this holiday season. Perhaps Mom and Dad are vacationing in sunnier climates, or even relocate somewhere warm for several months each year. Alternatively, it could be that your parents or loved ones are finding travel to be a bit more of a burden than it was in the past and with hectic airports and busy roads they just don’t want to fly or undertake a road trip during the busy holiday season. Whatever the reason, not being able to see one another in person shouldn’t prevent you from being able to “see” one another at all!

Technology – the gift that keeps on giving

The beauty of the gift of technology is that you can find something for every senior, whether they’re just hitting their stride at 55+ and retiring to enjoy the world around them or entering into the more “senior” years of adult living and require a little more assistance around the home or are considering a downsizing move to a retirement lifestyle setting. Whatever the case is for the older adult in your life, there’s a technology related item that’s perfect for their lifestyle.

Considerations include:

  • Computer, Laptop or Tablet: These are the primary tools for helping to keep a loved one in touch with the world and in touch with you! While affordability is certainly a consideration there is no doubt that a wide selection of products now exist that create “entry-level opportunities” for many seniors, or their families, to access technology in an affordable way.
  • Cell Phones and Smartphones: Sure you might be thinking everyone has a phone these days but do they? Some folks are still relying on older phones and prepaid phone cards. Think about scrambling around for your phone, AND your card, in a difficult situation. It’s not ideal. With so many cell phone providers offering affordable, entry level packages, the gift of a cell phone and/or paying for one year of service might just be a lifeline for the older adult you love.
  • Electronic Devices/Assistive Technology: It’s a broad category and might be a gift as simple as “Alexa” or “Google home” to help keep your Mom company during the day. Being able to simply shout out a request to play music, check the weather or find an answer to a burning question to settle a debate, all while seated across the room, is a great way for a senior to stay engaged and get the information they need about the world around them! Sometimes, as is the case in our own Mum’s world, it’s also a great opportunity to tell “someone” to shut up – without any real world consequences!
  • T. Services and Plans: Talk about a true gift that keeps on giving, assume the payment plan for your parents cell phone or wifi/internet costs for their computer. It’s one less thing for them to plan for in their budget and you have the peace of mind knowing you can connect with them at any time and they can connect with the outside world too.
  • Health and Emergency aids: While Grandma might be healthy enough to live alone and is enjoying life to the fullest, hazards around the home do become more of a concern as we age. It’s just a fact of life that we all might need a little more support, particularly in our more senior years. Assistive devices, medic alert bracelets, even a hearing aid are all important considerations for helping a family member stay safe.
  • Technology and Time: Finally, all the technology in the world is only as helpful as the person(s) using it. Give your family member the gift of time, your time. Have the teen in your home spend some time showing older family members how to use technology to connect. Sign Mom and Dad up for a course on internet safety at your local library. Show them how to download a podcast to enjoy on a quiet afternoon and most of all – get them familiar with how to access and use free technology tools that will keep you connected like facetime, whatsapp, skype, zoom or google hangouts. After all, the whole point of technology is to augment and add joy to our lives and help us to stay in touch but only if you know how to use it!

This holiday season, however and whatever you celebrate, consider technology as a tool for supporting gathering together, even while apart. While being in the same place is ideal – technology creates opportunities for us all to be in the same place at the same time even if what that actually means is virtually. There are considerable benefits to gifting technology that your loved one can use all year long; for their safety and well-being, for their enjoyment or most important of all, to stay in touch!