Above: The Tricella Smart Pillbox is one of the devices that may be helpful for older adults. Photo courtesy of Tricella Smart Pillbox

Devices such as cellphones, tablets and smart speakers are all the rage, but sometimes seniors are baffled by the things they get or that their families give them to make their lives better. In truth, the market is full of devices that do work for seniors, and this column will review the ones I like and give you insights in how to make them work for you.

The discussion has to start with a device I recently reviewed, the Echo Dot from Amazon. It’s called a smart speaker, but it’s really a two-way communications device. It’s also known as “Alexa” because that’s the name that activates it. You can ask Alexa to tell you the weather, news headlines or even a joke, and with voice commands, you can have it play music from an array of sources. You can also sync your device to your cell phone contacts, and that can enable you to call people. You don’t have to press any buttons; you can start it up from anyplace within the range of your voice.

The Echo Spot. Photo courtesy of Amazon

The two-way communication comes through Echo’s Drop-In feature. It requires a special set-up, but it enables designated people to call you on your Echo device. Again, as long as you’re in range, it’s all voice activated and hands-free. You can also set it up as an intercom. Drop In can be a huge benefit, especially for seniors who live alone. If you’re reading this electronically, click here for set-up instructions, or you can go to Amazon’s website and search internally for Echo Drop In support.

For a large phone with tracking capabilities, Jitterbug Great Call (https://www.greatcall.com/) offers a large, Android-based smart phone that’s connected to a dedicated network. The company also offers medical-alert devices. They’ve been in business for a long time, and you can buy their products directly or through Amazon and Best Buy.

There are a number of devices on the market to provide reminders to seniors who need to take medications at prescribed times. I like Reminder Rosie (http://reminder-rosie.com/), which is designed to solve the very real daily challenges of memory loss. Inspired by the creator’s father who suffered from dementia, Rosie is a personalized, voice-controlled reminder system that older adults love! With its senior-friendly clock interface, it provides a simple, hands-free, inexpensive solution to remember medication, appointments and everyday tasks.

Another option is Tricella Smart PillBox (www.tricella.com), which has sensors to detect if you or a loved one hasn’t taken their pills. It connects to smartphones through Bluetooth and can alert family members before a dose is missed.

For transportation, Lyft (www.lyft.com) has done a spectacular job of providing services for seniors, including access to rides without the need for a smart phone. For a review, see the blog post at: https://blog.lyft.com/posts/new-solutions-to-keep-seniors-moving.

Finally, I want to recommend places, both in person and online, where seniors can find classes, videos and websites to help them learn how to use or better understand the technology built into smart devices.

Nearly all senior centers and libraries in the Atlanta area provide training programs. BHTechnologies (https://www.bhtechgroup.org/) is an Atlanta organization that offers group classes as well as individual lessons. For those interested in tutorials and videos, I recommend Techboomers (https://techboomers.com/), which has myriad of tutorials and YouTube videos covering the gamut of devices and applications.

Technology has put a great deal of power in the hands of seniors and their caregivers. I hope this helps you harness some of that power and direct you to where it can help you or your loved ones the most.

When more help is needed

Most computers and other smart devices have features that make them accessible to users with special needs or disabilities. For example, you can enlarge pages for easier reading or use voice commands. For some examples of disability features for Windows 10 and iPhones. Find out more on the Microsoft (Microsoft.com) or Apple (apple.com) websites.

There are also a number of devices designed for people with memory-loss issues:

  • iTraq is a great alternative for anyone unable to use a smart device. It uses wi-fi triangulation indoors and GPS and cellular triangulation outdoors to locate one of its devices wherever internet and cellular service is available. It even has fall-detection, scheduled-reporting and geo-fencing capabilities and configurations to allow up to four months of battery life. Info: https://www.itraq.com.
  • NixPlay offers an automated picture frame for videos and photos. You can program it remotely to show a changing set of videos or photos. Info: https://www.nixplay.com.
  • The One Button Radio from Alzstore is a great alternative to a smart phone or other device for playing music. Playing familiar music has many benefits for people with dementia issues, and this device simplifies their access to their “golden oldies” by eliminating the frustration associated with trying to learn how use modern devices. Info: https://www.alzstore.com.


Gene Rubel

Gene Rubel, the Digital Device Doctor, cures digital anxiety for seniors and home/home-office users. “Doctor Gene” has worked with computers and technology in business and personally for 50 years and enjoys delving into the details and explaining them in plain English to peers who feel frustrated and uncomfortable.

He brings a calm and patient demeanor to helping his “patients” enjoy the benefits of rapidly advancing technology. Those benefits can include staying in close touch with distant family and friends, finding useful information or entertainment on the internet or using technology to conduct business more effectively from a home office. A graduate of Harvard Business School, “Doctor Gene” spent more than 30 years in international business.

Gene Rubel

Gene Rubel is a tech consultant and writer based in Sandy Springs.