It's ridiculous to think that the baby boomer generation doesn't like technology. This is the generation that witnessed televisions becoming commonplace, the rise of the personal computer and ATMs pop up on every street corner. Baby boomers have developed much of the technology we use today. As the boomers move from working to retirement, they are not letting themselves be put out to pasture and slowly slide into doddering old age. No, they are continuing to be tech-savvy, and now they have more time than ever to use new gadgets. There are even websites devoted to boomers and technology, such as Boomer Tech Talk; even the AARP has a section on its website for it.
The holidays are the perfect time to get your favorite boomers -- be they parents, other relatives or friends -- some new technology and help them learn to use it. But what tech makes the best gifts for boomers?
Let's start with the basics: a smartphone. Most people wouldn't know how to function without their smartphone, but a smartphone can be intimidating if you've never used one. What makes a smartphone the perfect boomer gift is it enables so many different forms of communication. You can call (and yes, people still do make phone calls), text, share photos, FaceTime or Skype, and even use social media. As families are spread out farther and farther, the ability to contact your loved ones in so many different ways is key to staying close.
Speaking of social media, how about a gift that doesn't cost anything but would be a great way to spend time together? That's right; it's time to get your parents or grandparents on Facebook -- or any other social media platform you think they would enjoy. Think about it; the boomer generation came up in a world where it was expected to lose touch with other people. But more and more boomers are using social media to find people from their past. Isn't it worth having your mom like every one of your posts for a few months if you know she can reconnect with high-school classmates she hasn't seen in 30, 40 or even 50 years?
Some boomers are already smartphone/social media adoptees. In fact, some boomers haven't slowed down in retirement; they've sped up -- and hit the road. It's the perfect way to spend your retirement, driving around the country, chasing the good weather and seeing the sights. For someone who grew up tracing interstates and highways on a paper map the size of architectural plans (never to be refolded correctly), GPS is a godsend. If your favorite boomer is on the road and you're concerned about something bad happening, get him or her OnStar so he or she is always connected to help. Even a subscription to satellite radio would be a great gift. There are plenty of lonely stretches of highway where the AM/FM signal fades out.
A lot of boomers spruce up their houses as they head into retirement. Why not? The kids are gone, and they're probably sick of looking at the same furniture. So what kinds of technology can make the home life of a boomer better? It could be something as simple as getting keyless doors. They're more secure, and it's one fewer key to keep track of. Another simple gift: getting all of a boomer's entertainment technology -- TV, cable, stereo, surround sound, etc. -- on one remote. No one actually enjoys having a basket of remotes on the coffee table and trying to remember which one does what.
As much as technology can supplement our lives and make them easier, it can also help save and prolong lives. As many boomers age, health concerns become paramount. Many have to take more medications than they are used to, or ailing health can make it difficult for them to take care of themselves. Some solutions are easy. There are automated medication dispensers to ensure someone is taking medication at the right time and with the right dosage. There are talking clocks and apps to gently remind someone to take medication, as well.
But remember those old "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercials? Life Alert, the company that made them, is still around, and all of that has gone digital now. There is, in fact, an app for that. Personal emergency response systems are a new type of technology aimed at helping those with questionable health. Life Alert is one of the many companies that run such a service. What is provided through the service varies from company to company. Certain companies provide GPS to paramedics to get them to your loved one faster; others keep digital medical records that can be forwarded to an emergency room or a doctor in another country if your loved one is traveling.
So if you have boomers on your list who are in poor health or juggling multiple medications, the holidays are a perfect time to get them on board with some helpful technology.