DIY Technology Solutions to Things Bothering My Aging Relatives

Written by: Frank Engelman. Posted: September 17, 2020. 


Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash


My relatives and their friends are in their 70's and 80's and 90's now, and I am finding they have some recurring "problems" that get in the way of life being as enjoyable as I think it should be.


The good news is that I have come up with a variety of DIY "Tech Solutions" to these problems that I have implemented for them. I am collecting and describing them here, and I hope they will be useful for you too.


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Now Includes Solutions to the Problems Readers Send In.

Starting in 2021, some of the problems below have been submitted by readers and Longevity Explorers (thank you). If Frank has a solution, they are included below.



Problems & DIY Technology Solutions

Spends too Much Time on the Couch

If you are looking for a way to help grandpa in remembering to get up and stretch, I have a solution for you. In fact, I’m guilty of spending most of my day on the couch and use this solution to remind me to get up and stretch at least once an hour. I’ve been using this for about a year now and...



Fridge for Forgetful Senior

We have several problems relating to a fridge and a forgetful senior who lives alone. We worry that she will leave the fridge open by mistake and that the food will spoil and make her sick. We worry that she forgets to throw out food as it gets old, and that the food in her fridge includes food...



Forget to Turn Water Off

As people grow older they often become somewhat forgetful. We start to worry about questions like "Did I leave the water running?" How do we make it so these sorts of questions are not things that we need to worry about?



Forget to Turn the Stove Off

Once or twice a month I leave the stove on after fixing breakfast. Most of the time I realize that I have left the stove on but it may be an hour or two after breakfast. I worry about what might happen as a result of this forgetfulness.



Can't Find Good Reading Light

Normal chairside floor or table lamps don’t offer easy adjustment of a lamp’s position, brightness, or warmness.




Rooms are Never The Right Temperature

My Mom’s heating and cooling HVAC system doesn’t distribute the air well throughout her home

I was running into the same problem in my house, and I was manually turning on floor and ceiling fans, but this can get tiring. I wanted a solution.



Simple Way to Add Outdoor Security Camera

I want a way to add an outdoor security camera to my house, without the bother of batteries, or running electricity outside.



My Dad Keeps Calling Me at a Bad Time

My dad lives in a different time zone and never seems to remember my work schedule. He is trying to call me for just a chat, but really gets confused about me being three hours later.



How Long To Lunch?: Alzheimers Sufferer Asks

I'm desperate to find an Alexa app for my uncle who suffers from Alzheimers. He not only has the issue of am/pm confusion, but he is very concerned about missing a meal.



Want to Silence the Smoke Alarm After it Goes Off

Smoke alarms are a wonderful security device, and we never expect to hear them, except when smoke or carbon monoxide (CO) is detected.

However, everyone I have talked to has had at least one incident when they double toasted the toast or fried something that made too much smoke… and the...



Online Grocery Delivery for those with Low Vision

You are experiencing problems ordering groceries online from apps that are not designed for a person who is blind or has low vision. Even when you tried screen readers such as Apple VoiceOver, you found that using it to read entire web pages designed for sighted persons very frustrating.



Music for Person with Dementia

Your loved one would like some personalized music, but they are unable to speak the commands to play music on an Amazon Echo Dot, or manage conventional sources of music.



Need a Simpler TV Remote Control

The Longevity Explorer groups have frequently brought up the complaint that their TV remote is too complicated. It's a recurring theme any time one asks about technology design and examples of poorly designed gadgets.



Forgot to Turn Off the Iron, Hotplate, or Heater

Have you ever plugged in a device, turned it on and later forgot it was still plugged in? If this was a device that consumed a lot of energy such as a clothes iron, electric hotplate, coffee pot, tea kettle or a space heater you might have wasted some power or even have caused some damage.



Nocturnal Wandering by Dementia Patient

For those of us caring for a loved one with dementia, nocturnal bed exits can be an overwhelming problem. The problem gets even worse if the person with dementia leaves the house at night without anyone knowing.



Avoiding Water Leaks

We want to avoid water leaks altogether. Or, if that is not feasible, we want to get alerted as soon as possible after a water leak starts leaking, so we can intervene and minimize damage.



Parent Continually Fiddling with Thermostat

Is your loved one continually misadjusting their thermostat — potentially causing health and financial issues? I wanted a thermostat that would work for people with dementia or impaired vision, or who for other reasons have trouble managing their thermostat.



Dementia: Not Recognizing Spouse or Family

An especially upsetting symptom of the later stages of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is when the person with dementia does not recognize a spouse or other family member any more.

We are seeking solutions that can help put off the time at which these symptoms start to manifest...



Automating Door Locks for My Parent

Explorer Frank wanted to turn a manual door lock into an automatic doorlock that could be opened with a person-specific code, and or controlled remotely. His reason was to be able to "check" that doors were indeed locked when they were supposed to be.

Other explorers wanted an automatic...



How to Monitor Sleep

There is a lot written about how important it is to get a good night's sleep. But how do we measure our sleep in the first place, so we can monitor whether it is "good", and whether any things we do to improve it actually make a difference?



Simple Shared Calendaring for Distant Parent

It's a common situation: an aging parent starts needing help from family members organizing things like doctors visits, or other care-related or social activities. How do you set up and maintain some type of mutually convenient, calendaring solution that maintains the right balance between "...



Automating My Parent's Lights

Having the right lighting in the right place at the right time is a very important detail for both safety and quality of life. Think burglars, or being able to read, for example.

But some older adults, as they become forgetful, or develop mobility issues, can end up with the lights turned...



Making Zoom Even Easier

Now that "Zooming" is a verb, knowing how to make video calls via Zoom is becoming an important life skill. The truth is Zoom is extremely easy to use, which is why it became so popular during COVID. But some people still have difficulties with some aspects.



Forgets to Wash Hands, Flush Toilet

My mother (with dementia) wakes up often in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and forgets to wash her hands/flush the toilet. She often forgets during the day as well.



Hearing Challenges and Video Calls

Some people with hearing issues find video calls challenging because they can't always make out what people are saying. We wanted solutions that could help with that. 



Reader Comments: "DIY Technology Solutions to Things Bothering My Aging Relatives"


from John Milford (member) at October 05, 2020

Frank, thank you for this treasure chest of solutions to common problems encountered by many, many older adults. I will be staying tuned for more! Bravo!



from faengelm (member) at October 06, 2020

Hello John,

Thanks for your kind words.

We`are always looking for new problems to solve. If you think of any problems we could work on, please create a Post (if you are a logged in member) or send us an email (use the contact form in footer).



from Laura (unverified) at January 04, 2021

I’m 90 and don’t like the “open-concept living” and never have. TOO NOISEY! With hearing aids now, even if you take them out, noise overtakes watching tv—there’s the blender, pots and pans, unloading dishwasher, washer and drier, people talking loudly, additional tv’s running in adjacent rooms—most of this sometimes at the same time. Unfortunately, hearing aids manufacturers haven’t found a way to alleviate background noise. Turning them up only makes things worse. Now, I just go back to my room where, thankfully, I do not have a tv. Thus, I run the risk of being uninvolved with my family or remote and uninterested—misunderstood. Therefore, I play games on an iPad more than I should or get bored and sleep too much.


from faengelm (member) at January 04, 2021

Hello Laura,

I understand what you are talking about in these open-concept spaces.

The first thought I had was the noise-canceling headsets from Bose or Sony that I used to wear on long airplane flights, but those are pretty expensive and you probably don't really want to listen to music

The other option I can think of is those noise reduction headsets that people wear when shooting. These are less than $20, I don't have any specific recommendation, but may someone else will

While you might think this will look awkward, you could always sit with others and when someone wants to talk to you slip them down around your neck. When they are done, put them back on.

At least you can get out of your room

Other than games on the iPad or regular TV, there are more interesting videos that you could watch on a Fire TV 

Making TV "Useful" For My 94-yr-old Aunt

TV Always On in Background: Mind-Numbing

Magic Carpet Apps for That  (from author Tom Hilton)



from mahi (unverified) at January 18, 2021

Do you have an app that sets a dementia clock on Alexa. A dementia clock will usually display, month, day of the week, number and a digital time


from faengelm (member) at January 19, 2021

Hello Mahi,
I received several requests for one, and I'm working on it. 

The problem in creating one on an Echo Show is that Amazon only allows a Skill to have control of the screen while the Skill is active.  So if you wanted to do something else on the Echo Show, you would have to exit the Skill and then restart the Skill.

The only dementia Skill I have right now just shows the time, and a "go back to sleep" message 



from Jim Martin (unverified) at December 05, 2022

One Tip to add to your list is 'Add Bluetooth to a TV without that option'.


from faengelm (member) at December 06, 2022

Hello Jim,

Thanks for the idea.

I found a couple of articles that offer suggestions:

Hearing the TV Better: Older Adults Explore 

Hearing Loss and Loud TV: Explorer Report

If you are looking for a simple Bluetooth transmitter, here is one that I have tested.


from Sherry jackson (unverified) at January 07, 2023

Two dementia patients are not getting along and I was wondering if there was any technology we could place in/on their clothes that would give us an alarm if they got in close proximity.


from faengelm (member) at January 08, 2023

Hello Sherry,

I haven't tried this product, but it was designed for COVID- 19 alerts when "social distancing" guidelines were violated.

Here is a video that shows its use with a monitoring app

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Last Updated: September 11, 2021.

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