You’re never too old to get a gadget
GADGETS AREN’T only for the young and totally able-bodied. A growing number of devices are being developed for older users. Here’s a quick rundown of the latest and greatest available this Christmas.
There are plenty of mobile phones that are not like mini-computers and are suitable for those who aren’t comfortable with the latest technology. Phones aimed at older buyers have bigger, clearer buttons, screens with better contrast and louder ring tones.
Doro’s Easy 409 is a flip GSM mobile phone. This means that it can be used for talking and texting, but it does not offer internet access.
The keys are large and separate. Because it’s a flip phone, it’s easy to answer calls by opening the handset.
The menu system is simple and straightforward. It’s also compatible with hearing aids. An emergency call button will call or send texts to designated numbers on a list when activated.
Also available from Irish mobile networks is the Emporia Elegance, which also has an emergency function, and has a strong vibration alert too. The sleek mobile phone also has a loudspeaker that is compatible with hearing aids.
Tablet devices have revolutionised the computer industry in the past year, and have found a surprise following among older users. The iPad was first out of the blocks. It’s got a big 9.7-inch screen, is easy to use and is light enough to carry around.
To make it even better for older users, the iPad also has several easily accessible features. The display can switch to white on black, giving the screen a higher contrast.
You can zoom in on text, and it also has VoiceOver, which is a gesture-based screen reader. Touching the screen gets a description of what a button does.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab, an alternative to the iPad, has a 7-inch screen and runs on Google’s Android operating system. Like the iPad, it can be used to play video and to browse the web. You can download applications from the Android store.
Front and rear cameras mean you can use it for video calling too, perfect for keeping in touch with family members at Christmas.
Technology can lend a helping hand to those who hate vacuuming or who find it difficult to manage regularly.
The latest version of the Roomba, which has been around for some time now, is a vacuum cleaner that is designed to deal with pet hair or to wash wooden floors and tiles. If it runs into an item of furniture or a step, it will sense that there is an obstacle and avoid it.
Some models clean on a schedule, so you can leave it to get on with the job. More advanced models clean a number of rooms, one after the other. So you don’t even have to nudge it in the right direction.
It works off a rechargeable battery, which means no cables. Try the Roomba 564 Pet, which will tackle most of the dirty jobs you can throw at it.
Games consoles have become increasingly accessible in recent years as the market has opened up to more casual players.
The original in this respect is the Nintendo Wii or, more specifically, the Wii Fit Plus, which has even got the backing of the National Health Service in the UK.
It works with a balance board to track your movements, and includes games to help improve balance, flexibility and fitness in a gentle and fun way. These days it is also being used in some retirement homes to help residents to stay active.
The Kinect is the latest thing to hit the games market. Designed to work with the Xbox console, the device consists of cameras and sensors that track your movement and translate it on screen. You don’t need any controllers because you are the controller.
Try out some tai chi or cardio training with some of the fitness games that are available for the console.
At the other end of the scale is the Nintendo DS hand-held game. It has been carving out a niche for itself offering games that appeal to a wide range of players, including useful ones such as brain and sight training.
Available in a number of different models, the DSi XL is billed as the DSi for grown-ups. One advantage for older players is that the screen is bigger than the one on the regular DSi Lite.
There was a time when digital cameras were a novelty, but now almost everyone has moved away from taking pictures using film.
Digital cameras are more convenient. You can delete unflattering images and then print the ones you want at home.
If you want a digital camera that retains some of the look of a film camera, but with the advantage of new technology, the Leica V-Lux 1 combines the best of both, with a 12x zoom and image stabilisation. If you want something sleeker, the Canon S95 is simple to use and will take great images in most lighting conditions.
Simple video cameras are also a nice gift. The Sony Bloggie Touch or the Flip Mino HD allow you to take footage and connect it directly to your computer with a built-in USB connection that flips out from the camera. That means no more lost USB leads.
Nothing beats a real book but these have their advantages too. They are lighter, easier to store and the text can be adjusted to a size that suits you. They don’t have LCD screens either, making them easier on the eyes.
When it comes to ebook readers, you can’t get much easier than the Kindle. The Kindle’s partnership with Amazon means there is a ready-made system that allows you to buy books at the touch of a button.
The electronic reader uses Wi-Fi or 3G to connect to the Kindle book store. You can download a book in about a minute directly to the device.
Sony has its own Reader, which doesn’t have the direct connection to a store, but allows you to buy books from a number of stores on the internet. Books are loaded on to the Reader by connecting it to a PC and using the included software.
Some libraries also allow you to “borrow” ebooks, which are compatible with the Sony Reader.