8/14/2020 | By Annie Tobey

Making the most of these cool new tools

Adults age 50-plus are increasingly drawn to new technology, finds a new national survey by the AARP. At the same time, they often do not take full advantage of their devices. With the rapid rate of change in tech products and their applications, keeping up can be challenging. This look at cool technology for seniors in 2020 can help you narrow down the options and have fun with your choices.

These products can enhance safety, support social connections, and provide enjoyment. And many work seamlessly together, helping you make better use of your existing devices.

Communication Technology for Seniors

Zoom video-chat platform seems tailor-made for a pandemic. It enables virtual communication and combats solitude by providing safe virtual contact for businesses or individuals. On a computer, smartphone, or tablet, Zoom connects and – optionally – shares video and audio of multiple participants. Happy hour with friends? Check! Visiting with your family? You bet! “Attending” virtual seminars and concerts? Absolutely!

DIY Home Monitoring

Home security systems no longer cost an arm and a leg for professional installation and monitoring. Many companies offer install-it-yourself products for minimal cost. These include contact sensors for windows and doors, cameras, lighting, and communication of security alerts – on your smart devices and remotely. Alerts can even go to loved ones, to give them added peace of mind, too.

Another security device, Ring video doorbell, alerts you when there is movement at your door and when someone rings the doorbell – even if you’re not at home! When you get the alert on your smartphone or tablet, you can see who’s there. You can even talk to visitors, from your easy chair or from far away.

Handy Personal Assistants

Although not ambulatory like Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid, Amazon Alexa “lives” to do your bidding. Among her many skills, Alexa can add items to your grocery list, tell you what’s on your calendar, order products for you, look up information, suggest a restaurant, play music and news shows, connect you with puzzles and games, chat with you, make phone calls, and so much more. If you’re more of a Google fan, Google Assistant provides similar services.

Lights … Action

“Clap on – Clap off! Clap on, clap off – The Clapper!” Practical and pretty, smart home lighting has come a long way since The Clapper and plug-in timers. Today’s electronic lights can vary in brightness and color. They will set a mood, gently highlight a favorite piece of art, or set the proper intensity for TV watching or reading. You can set timers for specific times, for sunrise and sunset, and more. You can operate them easily on your smart device (even when you’re away from home) or ask Alexa to assist. Look for trusted brands such as Philips Hue.

Audio Connections

“Connect” a Bluetooth speaker to Alexa or other smart device for enhanced sound quality and portability. Tune in to the morning news, a favorite musical artist, or a fascinating podcast on your smart device or Alexa. Then carry the speaker from room to room, even out on your patio. Higher end speakers such as the Bose portable smart speaker offer Wi-Fi as well as Bluetooth, and have Alexa or Assistant built in.


Videogames have come a long way since Pong hit the market in the 1970s. Seniors didn’t grow up with these games like their kids and grandkids did, but many have played them along the way or picked up gaming in recent years. Nearly half of Americans age 50 and over enjoy interactive video entertainment at least once a month. These players play for fun, to reduce stress, and as a mental challenge. They play more often on smartphones and tablets rather than computers. Popular choices include puzzle, logic, card, and tile games.

Apple Watch

So much more than just a way to tell time, the Apple Watch is both useful and fun. The utilitarian value of this wearable technology can monitor your heart rate and check your heart rhythm using an ECG app. It tracks your exercise – even swimming – and encourages you to move, helping you stay healthier and “compete” with friends and family members. It even detects if you take a hard fall and calls emergency services and contacts. But, on the fun side, it also plays songs, podcasts, and audiobooks, connects with payment methods, and acts as your phone.

These devices and brands provide merely a sampling of the technology available for making our lives more enjoyable and safer. And they can’t help but raise the question: What’ll they think of next?!

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey