The holidays are associated with people, parties, shopping and package deliveries. But for folks spending the season alone, it may not feel so joyous. Feelings of loneliness can intensify and be increasingly challenging for some. In a 2023 study conducted by the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA), 34% of adults ages 50 to 80 reported feeling isolated from others, and 47% reported experiencing a lack of companionship in the past year.
When you are thinking about what gifts to purchase for your older loved ones, consider items that allow them to stay connected and feel included. Dr. Lakelyn Hogan Eichenberger, gerontologist and caregiving advocate at Home Instead, Inc., has a few suggestions of digital devices to give your older loved ones this holiday season:
- Smart Speakers: Our loved one's mobility and dexterity will naturally decline as they age, which makes completing everyday tasks more difficult. We know it's challenging to be available for your aging loved ones around the clock, particularly when it comes to everyday tasks. Smart speakers with voice assist, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Nest, can be especially helpful for seniors with mobility issues, as they can be used without having to get up and move around. From turning on the lights in the morning to setting a medication reminder before bed, these devices can offer assistance when no one is there. They can also play your loved ones' favorite music or radio stations, among other functions.
- Library at Home: Who doesn't love to read a good book over the holidays? While the importance of promoting reading among children gets most attention, benefits abound for seniors who read, too. In fact, reading is linked with several positive outcomes for older adults, including enhanced memory retention, sharper decision-making and better sleep, among others. The Kindle Paperwhite is an ideal gift, offering adjustable warm lighting, easy-on-the-eyes reading, customizable fonts, audiobooks and extended battery life. Additionally, consider gifting a subscription to Audible or a similar service for avid readers with limited vision, which can be linked to a smart speaker for enhanced enjoyment.
- Technology You Can Wear: Physical activity is an important part of nearly everyone's everyday health, including our older adults. Even 30 minutes of movement a day can make a difference. For our older adults who want the latest health and fitness features, there are several options, such as the Apple Watch Series 9, that make a great choice. This newest version of the Apple Watch includes safety features such as fall detection, an ECG reader, a blood oxygen reader and REM sleep tracking. On top of these health measures, the watch also tracks workouts and reminds you of your "move" goals for the day.
- A Picture Worth a Thousand Words: Everyone needs social connections to survive and thrive. But as people age, they often find themselves spending more time alone. Being alone may leave older adults more vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, which can affect their health and well-being. Make your older companions feel like they are part of every moment with Skylight, a picture frame that allows you to control the display of the photos from any location. When connected to Wi-Fi, send photos to the frame's email, and they'll automatically appear on the screen.
- Tablets with Safety in Mind: According to Pew Research Center, 44% of those adults 65 and older said they currently owned a tablet. If your loved one wants to stay connected with a tablet, but you're worried about the endless access that a classic device may bring, the GrandPad is a perfect alternative. GrandPad has functions of a normal tablet but takes a few more precautions to protect older adults. It also uses simple navigation with large buttons and enhanced sound to make the experience of connecting with others easy as ever for our older adults.
- A Modern Spin on a Furry Friend: As our loved ones age, caring for others, including their furry friends, becomes more challenging. This often leads to older adults not having the capacity to take care of their very own furry friends they grew up loving. Animals can provide important forms of social and emotional support for older adults that can reduce stress, loneliness and improve overall quality of life. Joy For All offers lifelike companion pets in dog and cat options, complete with realistic fur, authentic sounds, sensors and speakers to form a meaningful bond by responding to voices – a bond everyone deserves.
Holidays are a great time to reflect. Take time to think about our older adults a little more and ask yourself how you can make them feel a part of your life, even if you aren't always together. Everyone has their own way of showing appreciation and gratitude, but we hope these gifts will connect you with your loved ones more than ever.
Check out these additional free resources to keep your aging loved one healthy and safe.