With Christmas only a week away, Ellina Webb puts together a list of useful and practical gifts for the older generation (which I’m sure she would also quite like to receive herself!).

I don’t know about you, but the hardest person I have to shop for around Christmas is my grandmother. This is mainly because she tells me that she has everything she needs and the best gift I can really offer her is my time and companionship throughout the year. However, alongside the intangible support we offer our loved ones, it’s always nice to be given a present to unwrap on the big day.

If you also have difficulty shopping for someone of the older generations or you’re just interested in what types of smart tech in available on the market, my classification of the most appropriate gift for my grandmother, which I will be explaining in this article, must check off the following requirements:

  • Can be enjoyed from the comfort of the armchair
  • Is both engaging and practical
  • Can be beneficial to either wellbeing, the home or as entertainment

Based on this, I have picked the following gifts that I think will make ideal presents for a parent or grandparent (and hopefully my grandmother) to find under the tree on Christmas day.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing has been an important topic of conversation this year when it comes to looking after ourselves, our loved ones, our employees and our buildings. Everything around us, from the air we breathe to the buildings we live and work in will affect our wellbeing in some way and that is even more evident in the elderly. Depression, loneliness and low levels of life satisfaction are common in this age group and illnesses like Dementia affects around two thirds of residents in UK care homes.

Subsequently, a great gift for someone of this generation is a device that can help improve their wellbeing.

One of the most common issues that can affect wellbeing is a lack of activity which is why a smart tech device like a Fit Bit could be suitable for you or your family member – even if their mobility levels are low. A Fit Bit doesn’t just monitor movement, daily steps and heart rate, encouraging users to be more active; it also monitors your sleep patterns and tracks the time. Of course other types of health trackers exist, suitable for all types of budgets. Smart health trackers are also now available in a variety of different styles, for example the Bellabeat Leaf Urban Smart Jewellery is an incognito way to track health; it can be worn as a bracelet, a necklace or a broach/clip making it ideal for someone like my grandmother who gets her styling tips from the Queen (who loves a broach!).

Other wellbeing and health devices which could make practical gifts include smart thermometers, hydration trackers and smart water bottles. Dehydration is another common and huge problem that affects the elderly leading to a number of severe illnesses. The most common of which are dementia, strokes and kidney problems. Therefore the need for hydration in those of an older age is very important; so any way to ensure this is monitored, moderated and improved will make an undeniable difference.

Finally, with sleep problems becoming more of an issue as we age, sleep lights like the Dodow Sleep Aid are also great as potential wellbeing gifts. The Dodow Sleep Aid projects lights onto the ceiling to help with rhythmic breathing in order to reduce brain activity; making you fall asleep smoother and quicker. Other smart ways to help with sleep problems include a number of subscription apps like Calm, which again could make suitable gifts or sleep/sound systems such as the new Bose Sleepbuds.

Home

Home is where the heart is, and that is definitely true for my grandmother. Her home is her sanctuary and it’s where she spends most of the time because at 95 she is still lucky enough to live independently. Therefore, adapting her home to suit her needs is crucial because there isn’t anyone else around to look after her or keep her company on a daily basis, especially in the winter where the dark and cold nights become problematic for those who are vulnerable.

This is where gifts like smart lightbulbs and smart heating controls become invaluable. The ability to control everything around us from a device in the palm of our hands is extremely convenient to anyone, especially those who find themselves confined to a chair for most of the day. In fact, I won’t be getting my grandmother either of those things for Christmas because she already owns them!

In winter it is estimated that an extra 20,000 over the age of 65 will die each year due to the cold weather suppressing immune systems and causing breathing problems. Therefore reliable heating systems and easy to use controls yet again prove to be a priceless asset (as they are all year round). Some smart heating controls which can be used on smart devices allow for multiple users to access it, this means with a system like MELCloud, I can help my grandmother monitor her heating and hot water remotely; so I know she is safe and warm.

Furthermore, with smart lightbulbs my grandmother can sit comfortably in front the TV without worrying that she’s left the bedroom light on. She can also light the bungalow (and switch on the heating) before she arrives home so she isn’t stumbling around a dark and cold hallway, risking a fall.

Some other great gift ideas for the home which are especially useful for those who live alone or who struggle with mobility issues include a smart doorbell and a smart hoover like Roomba. Smart doorbells have only recently hit the UK market and work by connecting via an app to your smart phone which allows you to speak to and see who is at your door wherever you are.

Again this is something that my grandmother actually already uses and she has shared the app with me so I can help monitor who is at her door or even live stream via the camera. The main benefit of this device for her was so she could ask any visitors to wait or use a different door as she often found that by the time she walked from the lounge to the front of the house, the visitor had left.

Entertainment

No matter who you are or how old you are, boredom is a serious quality of life issue. When it comes to the elderly this is even more common regardless of whether they live in assisted living, in a home or independently. Brain activated games; puzzles and music have all proven over the years to have a significant impact on the health of the mind and with mental health too. Therefore, the gift of entertainment tops the list of Christmas gifts for those of all ages.

From the iPad to the smartphone and gaming devices like the Nintendo DS, consumer electronics like this are always lusted over (although I don’t think I’ll get my Nan an Nintendo this year…). Items which do peak my interest however are the voice activated smart devices like the new Sonos speaker or unique products like a smart garden.

My grandmother has always enjoyed gardening – although this isn’t something she has been able to actively participate in for a long time, so the smart garden seems like a very good option. The ‘Smart Garden’ describes itself as a product which takes care of plants automatically, ensuring they have enough water, light and nutrients. The product also includes an LED light with a timer and a self-watering tank (although it depends on the model you buy).

While that might not be classed as entertainment for some people, for the women who has it all (my grandmother) finding something fun and niche is actually the only option. Of course the smart speaker set seems to be the gift of choice this year with Google releasing a new version with a screen and Apple finally getting on board with the Home Pod. I personally would go for the Sonos One (which you can actually win here in our Chiller competition) however I think I’ll be buying this for myself – sorry Nan!

Final thoughts

In a time of year which promotes excess, I think the most thoughtful gift you can give a loved one is something that can enhance their lives in one way or another. Enough of the smellys, the choccies and the perfume, this  year I think the list of smart items available really do need to be considered if you have the budget because enhancing our health and our homes is the gift that keeps on giving.

Now I hope my grandmother enjoys her smart garden!

Ellina Webb is a Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric.