Whether you’re a young-at-heart geek or have a thriving phobia of all things electronic, these five (and a half) gadgets are easy to use, life-changing, and guaranteed to impress all your retired friends – and maybe even the friends under fifty, too.
Help! I can’t find my _______!
Just because you have more time in retirement doesn’t mean you want to spend it hunting through your jacket, purse, pants, car, bedroom, and everywhere else in the universe for your cell phone. Enter Tile Mate and Tile Pro, dubbed “the best bluetooth” by Wirecutter online magazine, https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-bluetooth-tracker/.
Each tile, about the size of a quarter or a silver dollar, finds your phone, tablet, keys, camera, or anything else you attach it to in less time than it takes to kick yourself for losing them in the first place. Using Bluetooth technology, the user (that’s you) uses a phone app to send a signal to the lost item. The tile receives the signal and sings loudly and clearly so you can follow the music, find your missing item, and get on with your life.
What if it’s your phone you’ve lost and you can’t access the app? Just double-click on the tile and your phone will answer back immediately with it’s own song, even if it’s on vibrate. Yes, it’s that easy. It’s that indispensible.
Back in the day (2016), Tile Mate was given the prestigious title of Editor’s Choice by PC Mag (https://www.pcmag.com/review/349025/tile-mate), but still wasn’t given a five-star rating because the battery was not replaceable (meaning the user had to purchase an entirely new Tile whenever the battery died – about once a year). Obviously, not a popular feature, so the folks at Tile listened and learned. This year, both the Tile Mate and the Tile Pro have replaceable batteries, raising PC Mag’s rating of the Tile’s to a solid five.
Which one should you buy? Tile Mate, https://www.thetileapp.com/en-us/products/mate, comes in a 4-pack with two large and two small tiles, has a decently loud ring, and can find your phone or another tile within a 150-foot range. Peace of mind for about $60.
The Tile Pro, https://www.thetileapp.com/en-us/products/pro, will set you back a bit more (about $100 for the four-pack), but extends the range for finding your items to 300 feet and offers an even louder ring for even easier locating.
No matter what the state of your memory is as you age, Tile Mate and Tile Pro will let you keep tabs on your valuables like a fresh-faced 25 year-old (although even 25-year olds lose things).
What’s can you do with your wrist?
Lots! Strap the right watch around it and you can have more data, more inspiration, and more fun than your Grandpa Joe ever had with his pocket watch.
Which one is right for you? In the world of fitness tracking, Fitbit https://www.fitbit.com/home created the genre, formed a community, and got the U.S. counting its steps. For just $70 the Fitbit Inspire boasts a five-day battery life, all the fitness tracking you could ever want, a sleek design, and a touchscreen interface. Perfect for your first fitness tracker.
Wareable website voted the Fitbit Charge 3 its 2018 Fitness Tracker of the Year, (https://www.wareable.com/wearable-tech/wareable-tech-awards-2018-winners-revealed-6815). Priced at about $150, the Charge 3 sports a larger, sports-watch type look, but is still more compact than most other athletic watches. Besides tracking your steps, stairs, calories burned, and sleep habits, the Charge 3 also helps you set your own goal-based exercise routines, has a 7-day battery life, and is fully water resistant to 50 meters should you ever decide to yacht across the Atlantic during a thunderstorm, run through a tsunami or just go for a swim at your local rec center. The Charge 3 comes with preloaded apps for things like weather and alarms, but can also hold up to 39 apps downloaded by the user.
If you’re looking for a smartwatch (and why wouldn’t you be), Fitbit’s Versa, gives the Apple watch (see below) a good run for its money. A lot less money, actually. Starting at $199, the Versa does all the fitness tracking of the Charge 3 and the Inspire series, offers 24/7 heart rate monitoring, forwards notifications from your phone, and, along with the Charge 3, is equipped with Fitbit Pay – just download your credit cards onto the Fitbit phone app and make easy, secure payments with just a swipe of your wrist.
So why buy an Apple watch? At almost twice the price – $300 for the basic series 4 and $400 for a series 4 watch with cellular service – it might seem surprising that anyone would shell out that much cash for an Apple watch. Of course, there are always the Apple die-hards – and you may be one of them. If you already own an iPhone, buying an Apple watch (along with your iPad, iPod, and Macbook Air) completes the Apple family, its IOS blending seamlessly with the rest of your electronic devices.
But for the rest of us, Apple offers several unique features that can’t be found in any other sports or smart watch anywhere. Starting with the watch face, which won 2019’s Display of the Year by the Society for Information Displays (yes, there is such a thing – check it out: https://www.sid.org/). The watch face is clearer and larger making it easier to see with aging eyes. Apple did this without increasing the watch’s size by removing the bezel (the black area) around the edges of the watchface, allowing more icons and larger data displays. This means there’s plenty of room not only to display the time, but also the weather, your calendar, your activity tracking, and just about anything else you’d like to see at a glance.
Of special interest to those of us spending more time at the doctor’s office than the barber shop, the Apple watch goes far beyond simply tracking your heart rate. It can perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) similar to a single lead ECG, and also notify you if it notices any irregularities in your heartbeat that look like signs of atrial fibrillation. It also notifies its wearer of abnormally high or low heart rates (preset to heart rates above 200 and below 40, but these can be customized) and records the date, time, and duration of the abnormal rate. All heart data is stored in Apple’s Health app, which can easily be retrieved during a doctor’s visit and even downloaded as a pdf to print out and take with you.
Fall alerts are another useful feature, for the over-50 set. When the Apple watch detects a hard fall, an alert appears (meaning the watch also physically buzzes) and gives the user the option of calling emergency services or simply tapping “I’m okay.” If you don’t respond at all, the watch will automatically call emergency services and all of your emergency contacts for you. Again, all of the data surrounding your fall is stored in the Health app allowing you to give better data to your health care provider.
One of the biggest differences between the Apple watch and the Fitbit Versa – and most likely the biggest reason for the price difference – is the option with the Apple watch for cellular connectivity. Without cellular, the Apple watch – like the Versa – can receive phone calls only if your phone is within about 30 feet of the watch. But for about $5/month on your cell phone bill, your Apple watch can be freed from your phone, allowing you to take calls, stream music or podcasts, and do just about anything your phone can do – even if your phone is nowhere in sight.
Check out the Apple watch’s https://www.apple.com/apple-watch-series-4/ or Fitbit Versa’s https://www.fitbit.com/versa many features for yourself! Whether you choose the Versa or the Apple, you’ll love having the power these devices bring to the convenience of your wrist.
Not your aunt Martha’s photo collection
Remember back in the day when grandma and grandpa (and Aunt Martha) filled every horizontal surface in their house with family photos? And remember that for as long as they lived, those photos never changed? Even your own family growing up had maybe two portraits of grandma and grandpa sitting serenely on the top shelf of the bookcase.
That doesn’t have to be your destiny! You don’t have to be content with a handful of never-changing photos of your family and you can help your grandkids (and future grandkids) know more about you than just what you look like in your church directory photo.
Enter the age of digital photo frames. Sure, these have been around for a while, but only recently have they been linked to wi-fi. This, my friends, is a game-changer.
A wi-fi enabled digital photo frame, like the top-rated Pix-Star 15-inch frame or the Nixplay 15-inch, https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-digital-photo-frames,review-6435.html) continuously rotates through your entire photo “playlist” showing each photo in 1024 x 768 (translation: crystal clear) resolution. As if bringing your photos to life the way only a digital photo frame can, the true game-changer is that, with wi-fi frames, your children, grandchildren, or friends can send new photos directly to your photo frame. You give your loved ones the email address of your photo frame and new pictures pop up in your playlist every day.
Turn this idea around, gift a digital wi-fi photo frame to your kids, and they’ll come to know the rich and interesting life you lead through the photos you send them. No more will your grandkids (or even your own kids) think retirement is all about sitting and watching TV. They’ll see you on vacations, working in your garden, on a bike ride, trying a new restaurant, volunteering, and doing whatever else you care to share with them. Who knew? Mom and dad have a life, too!
Introducing . . . the electric toothbrush!
Wait a minute. Electric toothbrushes have been around since, well actually, since 1927 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_toothbrush). But most of us were introduced to this fancy gadget some time in the 1990’s when electric toothbrushes were marketed simply as instruments that cleaned our mouths better than manual brushing.
So why talk about electric toothbrushes today? According to the American Dental Association “an unhealthy mouth is associated with obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease. (https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2012-archive/august/take-two-minutes-to-brush).” But more than that, the state of your teeth and gums is one of the biggest give-aways of your age. Let your oral health slide, and you’ll age faster than a time-lapse video of a tsetse fly.
For under $100, the Oral-B 6000 removes three times as much plaque along the gum line as a manual brush, and has five different cleaning modes (regular, gum care, whitening, sensitive, and pro cleaning). For just $20 more, the Oral-B 7000 gives you two extra brush heads, and one extra cleaning mode: tongue cleaning for fresher breath. Both brushes connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone – both iPhone and Android – to give you real time feedback on your brushing through Oral-B’s app.
How does the app work? Using the mirror mount that comes with the Oral-B, click your phone into place and tap on the Oral-B app. You’ll see visually when you’ve missed spots – most of us brush less on the side of the hand we write with, for example – and you’ll learn instantly when you’re using too much pressure, which can lead to enamel loss. If you’re not paying attention to the app, the Oral-B will slow its rotation and even stop entirely if you continue to use too much pressure, saving you future toothaches and thousands of dollars in dental care down the road. And like all electric toothbrushes, the timer makes sure you brush for an entire two minutes – the amount of time recommended by the American Dental Association.
So what are you waiting for? Put this essential device (or one like it) on your next birthday/Christmas/Mother’s/Father’s Day wish list.
“Smart speakers” that speak back!
Also known as “home assistants,” these are the the generic labels for voice-controlled home devices like Amazon Echo (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HZJ64WD?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=352537490384&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=5309432806145727424&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9016894&hvtargid=kwd-309179344440&ref=pd_sl_1foyxz097s_e) and Google Home (https://store.google.com/us/product/google_home?hl=en-US).
With either of these products you can have up-to-date news and weather, make phone calls, and update your grocery list without lifting a finger. And of course, they both play music, and come in several sizes ranging from roughly the size of a hockey-puck (Echo Dot/Google Home Mini) to 10” displays (Echo Show/Google Home Max) – in other words, there’s one to fit every room in your house. Using Bluetooth technology, Alexa and Google can connect to your home speakers (if they are also Bluetooth enabled) allowing you to play music, podcasts, audiobooks, and even the radio (through an app) all with a simple voice command.
With a smart speaker/home assistant, you can search for and display step-by-step recipes, watch videos of breaking news, or simply say, “Alexa, add cinnamon to my grocery list,” or “Google, add dentist appointment to July 11th at 10 o’clock.” Access your grocery list at the store through the Alexa (or Google) app on your phone; ditto for your updated calendar.
Want a more personalized grandparenting experience than Facebook? Video calls are a snap with a smart speaker equipped with a screen display, and your family can even leave video voicemails for you to view later. Even better, Google is pairing with Nest smart home security to produce Nest Hub Max, due out this summer. With this device, you’ll have all the features described above, plus the ability to check on your home remotely for added peace of mind while traveling.
And the ½ gadget?
A library card from your local public library! It’s free and, while not technically an electronic gadget in and of itself, this little plastic card gives you access to a full range of electronic services and media.
Almost every library provides access to ebooks and digital audiobooks through their library card. Download an app like Libby or Cloud Library, set up an account with your library card, and start reading or listening! Books automatically return at the end of the loan period, meaning there is never an overdue fee for electronic materials.
But ask if your library also subscribes to Hoopla (https://www.hoopladigital.com/) or Kanopy (https://www.kanopy.com/) for access to more than 30,000 movies (Kanopy) that can be instantly streamed to your phone, tablet, or even your TV. If you don’t want instant streaming – which can eat up your data – titles can be downloaded for offline viewing later on. Hoopla, in addition to its 6,000 movies, adds comic books, ebooks, digital audiobooks, more than 300,000 music albums and TV shows for you to check out and enjoy with your library card.
Perhaps the best-kept secret in public libraries are its databases. For most of us, that word – “database” – brings up images of long lists of data, along the lines of an Excel spreadsheet. But a public library database is so much more. It’s an online reference tool that you can access from home using your (free!) library card.
Need to check your stock portfolio? Morningstar is a database. Helping the grandkids with homework? Encyclopedias are databases. Health concerns? Medline Plus and Health Source databases can help you understand your diagnosis. Need to change a spark plug? Chilton’s database can show you how. Legal forms are easy to search and print, as are old issues of local and national newspapers. And if you’re researching your family history, Ancestry is your true friend – ask if your library subscribes to this database.
Keep your mind sharp and challenge yourself to learn a new language through Mango Languages database. Some libraries even offer six-week online courses in things like web design, photography, accounting, writing, and health and wellness all taught by real, human instructors and all are free with your library card. Ask for Gale Courses at your local library.
It may be small, plastic, and free, but your public library card may just be the most important “electronic” gadget you ever get!
We love that you have found us, and we want to keep in touch with you too. Would you like to become more connected with our services?Get Connected