New gadgets help seniors stay at home longer

Smart Sole is a shoe insert that has GPS tracking.

In Canada, more than 90 percent of people age 65 and older choose to stay in their homes and communities, according to Statistics Canada. Among seniors in their 90s, about half live in private households.

If you or someone you love is among that number, there are many devices and gadgets that can make staying in your home easier and safer and possibly extend your time there.

For starters, there are simple gadgets that make opening cans, jars and bottles possible for arthritic hands. You can also find button hooks, zipper pullers, sock aids and long-handled shoe horns.

Tying shoelaces can be more challenging as we age too. The XPand elastic no-tie shoelaces transform lace-up shoes into loafers.

In the kitchen or bathroom, an anti-scald device can be attached to a faucet or shower head to ensure the water stays at a safe temperature.

If hearing loss requires you to crank up the volume on your stereo and television, which is not good for your ears, you might consider wireless buds, also known as assistive listening headphones. Check out Artiste Wireless Hearing Aid Headset System to learn more.

Also, for those with hearing issues, gadgets that let you see when the doorbell is ringing, such as a flashing light, could be helpful.

A gadget that can be used on any chair, even a car seat, is called the DMI Deluxe Swivel Seat. It has a rotating seat that makes getting up and out easier and helps you avoid pulled muscles and joint soreness.

Lifeline Auto Alert and similar devices can be worn as bracelets or necklaces and are designed so that in case of an emergency the wearer can simply press a button for help. This system also has a fall detector that automatically calls for help if it senses the wearer has fallen. Prices start at $36 per month.

Stair lifts and elevators

Stair lifts, which carry a person up and down a staircase, are readily available via the internet. Prices vary with each installation, but most suppliers will cost less than an elevator.

The cost of a home elevator depends on a number of factors but according to Graventa Lift, self-described as “an international company specializing in the manufacturing of accessibility products and compact elevators,” two-stop home elevators start in the range of $20,000 installed. Typical installations cost between $19,000 and $39,000.

Graventa Lift

The added advantage of an elevator is that it can carry cargo besides people.

Some internet posters pointed out that the purchase of a stair lift would depend on why it is needed. Having difficulty with stairs, perhaps because of joint pain, would, they felt, be a good reason to install a stair lift.

On the other hand, if the reason for wanting the stair lift is general frailty, they say it might be a better idea to move to a house or apartment that is all on one level.

And if dementia is an issue at all, a stair lift probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

Higher tech gadgets

Thirty percent of Canadians aged 65 to 79 take at least five prescription medications, according to a Canadian Health Measures Survey for the years 2007-2011. That’s a lot of pills to remember.

Devices such as PharmaClock are designed to help. PharmaClock can provide up to four daily light and sound alarms. It measures about five by five inches, holds a seven-day supply of medications and has an automatic alarm shut-off after one minute to conserve battery power. It is priced around $25.

For those who want to go a little higher tech, or who require more than four reminders daily, Reminder Rosie might be the gadget of choice. Reminder Rosie is a voice activated device that allows the user or caregiver to record voice reminders for everything from getting up in the morning to doctor’s appointments to pill taking and more.

Rosie is multilingual and will record up to 25 reminders, each six seconds long, for today only, every day or any day of the week.

Reminder Rosie prices vary widely online — $150.35 at Amazon.

Medoclock is a free mobile app that pretty much does what Reminder Rosie does from the user’s smartphone.

Recurring reminders can be set up for all medications and a list of meds can be emailed to medical personnel such as the user’s dentist or optometrist.

Medoclock is compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and all Android devices. One, two or more users can use it and it understands English, French and Spanish

As well, iPhones and many other smartphones come with reminder apps that can be set up to send reminders at specific times.

Someone to watch over you

Home sensors such as Lively can be used to monitor daily activity through sensors placed in different locations around a home such as pill boxes or appliances. Loved ones can log in and check if the seniors have left the house, if the refrigerator has been opened, etc. If something seems amiss, caregivers are notified by email or text message.

Just as you can find kettles that turn off automatically, there are specialized stovetops that sense when someone leaves the cooking area and turn themselves off. One place where this device can be found is at the website This Caring Home at

Wearable technology is also a possibility. A European company is developing garments that it says will oversee the wearer’s breathing, heart and skin temperature. Health updates are sent to caregivers.

Finally, if you are concerned that your loved one might walk away from their house and not be able to find their way home, Smart Sole is a shoe insert that has GPS tracking.

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