By: Frank Engelman | Posted: September 17, 2020 | Updated: April 23, 2023
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.
Ongoing Series: Follow Me to Get Notified
This is going to be an ongoing series. if you want to be notified when I add new problems & solutions, just add yourself to the Tech-enhanced Life newsletter.
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
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
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 smoke alarm went off!
Normally that’s a good thing to know it’s working, BUT when you have resolved the problem and it’s still blaring (85 dB) at you for minutes it’s very annoying.
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.
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 I find that it really helps.
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.
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 that is past its “eat by date”.
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?
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.
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 door lock so that if they pressed their emergency alert button, the emergency services would be able to get in (via the special “code”) without needing to have an external “lockbox” containing a key.
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 “collaborating” and “helping” and “keeping things simple”?
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 off when they should be on, or the wrong lights for the “job at hand”. We wanted some “smart home” solutions that can help with this.
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.
*Disclosure: The research and opinions in this article are those of the author, and may or may not reflect the official views of Tech-enhanced Life.
If you use the links on this website when you buy products we write about, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate or other affiliate program participant. This does not affect the price you pay. We use the (modest) income to help fund our research.
In some cases, when we evaluate products and services, we ask the vendor to loan us the products we review (so we don’t need to buy them). Beyond the above, Tech-enhanced Life has no financial interest in any products or services discussed here, and this article is not sponsored by the vendor or any third party. See How we Fund our Work.