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Technology around the home

There are many simple technological aids available to help make your life easier and safer, and to give you more peace of mind.
6 min read
In this article
Easy-to-use mobile phones Television remote controls with larger buttons Memory aids
Security cameras Smart home technology 

Easy-to-use mobile phones

The growth of the mobile phone industry has presented a real opportunity for designers of both hardware (the phone itself) and software (the applications) to reach out to older users, offering solutions to daily problems and opening doors to new possibilities.

 

Simple mobile phones are no-nonsense handsets that give you all the essentials – calls, texts and number storing – without any fuss. They are generally easier to use than your average smartphone and offer better battery life. If you’re looking for a simple mobile phone, read the Which? guide on how to buy the best simple mobile phone.  

There are a number of speciality phones on the market that are designed specifically for the visually impaired in mind.

The downside with simple mobile phones is that they’re often smaller, and cramped keypads can make it hard to press the right buttons every time. There are a range of mobile phones designed with large and well-spaced number keys on the handset, which can be useful for those with low vision or people who have poor mobility or strength in their hands. The Which? review on best big button simple mobile phones gives a useful overview of what’s available.

 

There are a number of speciality phones on the market that are designed specifically for the visually impaired in mind. But these phones are often very expensive, unavailable from most retailers, and very light on features. So if you’re visually impaired and want to buy a regular mobile phone, read the Which? guide for advice on buying mobile phones for the visually impaired

 

Television remote controls with larger buttons

 

One problem with modern televisions for people with less flexible fingers is that while the remote control handsets seem to be getting bigger, the buttons on them are getting smaller (and more numerous). Fortunately, several companies now offer remote controls with extra-large buttons, sometimes referred to as ‘jumbo’ or ‘giant’ buttons.

 

These remote controls can be tuned to work with an existing television and many will also be ‘universal’, meaning they can also work with a DVD player, VCR and digital TV box, for example. Read about the best cheap TVs in Which? TV and home entertainment product reviews. 

 

Memory aids

 

Some memory aids are fairly technical, others less so – but all are designed to help with remembering important and safety-critical everyday tasks.

 

Memory aids can be especially helpful for people living with dementia. It’s important to note, though, that although these products can help manage memory problems, they can’t cure any underlying issues and nor should they be seen as a replacement for the appropriate medical care or attention.

 

Some memory aids available to buy include:

  • Digital clocks: these clearly display the day, time and date. Dayclox automatically dims at night and is good for those with partial sight or low vision.
  • Stove alarms: good for people who are easily distracted or forgetful who could leave the cooker turned on and unattended, risking a fire. Innohome Stove Alarm learns how you use the cooker (to prevent false alarms) and sounds an alarm when the oven temperature rises, before a fire ignites.
  • Memo reminders: designed for those living alone who need reminding about specific tasks. Memo Minder Mark II has a motion detector that senses someone walking past and plays a personalised message in a relative’s voice – for example when placed at the front door: ‘Mum, don’t forget your keys.’ You can also use it to record a very short message to remind you of the day’s tasks.
  • Pill dispensers: useful if you need a reminder to take medication or have poor memory which could lead to you taking repeated doses. Put up to 28 days’ medication in the box and it sounds an alert when you’re due to take it, stopping when you remove the tablets. Some can also link up to a monitoring centre, such as the Pivotell electronic pill dispenser Mk 3-11.
  • Locator systems: A range of different apps is available to help people who are prone to losing everyday items. For example, Tile App sticks, hooks or attaches ‘Tiles’ to things that are easily lost, such as keys, a mobile phone or wallet. If lost, the items can be located using a smartphone app, which keeps tabs on where the sensors are using a Bluetooth connection. The app shows the item on a map, with a range up to about 45 metres (150 feet).


For more information about these, and other, gadgets and systems, see memory aids for dementia in Which? Home & garden.

 

Security cameras

 

Connect a smart security camera to your home network via a wired or wireless connection. You can access it from anywhere in the world via an app on a smartphone or tablet, or a web browser on a computer, making it especially useful if you have relatives who are keen to check that you’re OK either by yourself or if there are carers coming in.

Most cameras have motion-sensing abilities that trigger recording once they detect movement. Some even have face detection, so you can set ‘safe’ faces that it won’t send alerts for.

Features you might want to consider are a built-in microphone and speaker or motion sensors so a fall can be detected.

If you’re considering this option, be aware that there’s not much difference between a dedicated camera for care of an older person, and a standard wireless security camera. Features you might want to consider are a built-in microphone and speaker so a conversation can be held, or motion sensors so a fall can be detected. You also might like to consider a specific model of security camera that has a zoom lens and a pan-and-tilt feature, though this feature is not standard, which senses when the person is not in view.

You can simply buy your security camera and use it as it is, but you may find there are other options to add an on-going subscription that gives you access to extra functionality, storage, or the ability to add multiple cameras. 

For more information about how to buy wireless security cameras, see the Which? wireless security cameras advice guides.

CCTV cameras

CCTV can be a good option if you would like extra reassurance when it comes to security, with systems for inside and outside the home. You can buy cameras on their own, or as part of a whole security package. You’ll need to buy some equipment to accompany the camera, depending on what type you choose, such as connectors and a digital video recorder (DVR) to store and view the footage. You can also buy dummy cameras for around £10.

CCTV systems can be: wired, where a wire connects directly from the camera to the monitor; wireless, where cameras transmit images to your computer, tablet or mobile phone, using analogue or digital technology; or use an IP system, where cameras that use your network or internet portal send images to your computer’s router.

For more information about CCTV, see the Which? home CCTV guide.

Smart home technology 

Technology is constantly developing and there are many ways that smart technology could help you to stay independent in your own home for longer. Find out more in our guide to smart technology. 

Further reading

Telecare

Telecare systems make use of new technology to help people in later life continue to live independently. We explain ...

Personal alarms

Personal alarms can help people who live alone to feel safer and more secure by providing contact to the outside world ...

Telehealth

Find out how telehealth can support people with certain health conditions, such as hypertension, chronic asthma and ...

Last updated: 18 Sep 2018