‘Radio’ for the Elderly: What’s the Next Step?

I have an idea for a product that needs to exist. It sounds like it is perfect for a Kickstarter, and I know it would help a lot of people…but I have no idea how to get it produced. So–I’m hoping someone out there can help me?

I want to make a “radio” for elderly patients.

Here’s the story: my grandfather has Alzheimer’s and has been getting worse lately. The retirement home he and my grandmother live in is far from family (they picked it, years ago) and especially far from my family. Whereas other family members could just drive over and visit, it’s a long, expensive flight for me. But I still want to do something to help.

I decided I wanted to buy him a music player, load it up with music from his youth, and give it to him. Music has incredible powers, helping access parts of our memories that we otherwise can’t find.

You’ve probably seen the video of Henry on YouTube. If you haven’t, it’s here below. Careful, it’s a tearjerker:

My grandfather isn’t as bad off as Henry was, but he will be soon. He gets confused and doesn’t know where he is. He gets afraid. I thought music, even if it didn’t bring him back to us, would at least lift his spirits.

But I was missing a crucial ingredient: I can’t go to his nursing home, put the headphones on him, turn it on. And the nursing staff can’t be relied upon to do that; they have other jobs. My grandmother is there, and could help, but the new technology is too confusing for her, and the buttons are small.

This is what I needed:

  • something I could pre-load with music
  • large volume controls and an on/off switch
  • speakers, and maybe a headphone jack for over-the-ear headphones
  • a cord that plugs into the wall
  • relatively inexpensive (we have some fears about his belonging being stolen)
  • preferably something that looks superficially familiar to him, like an old-style radio

I’ve looked and looked for months, but I can’t find something that met those requirements. I’ve found a lot of “almosts,” but most radios have a lot of extra buttons or settings, and I am afraid he would accidentally switch or change my presettings and not have music.

I think this is a product that needs to exist; I’d have paid a lot of money to buy one if it already did. I don’t know how to produce a product like that, but it would bring such comfort to the families of Alzheimer’s patients, and joy to the patients themselves. For people in private rooms or apartments, like my grandfather, a little stereo clearly labeled “on/off” that he could potentially work by himself would be ideal.

My grandfather turns 89 this weekend. I would love to give him the gift of music.

Can anyone help? If you know of how to get something like this, please let me know. If you have suggestions to build one, heck, I’ll learn to solder if it would help me give this gift to my grandfather.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “‘Radio’ for the Elderly: What’s the Next Step?

  1. Anna Gay

    Hi there! I’m Anna, a friend of Lori Drozd. This might be kinda janky, but I have an idea:

    I have this thing, which I love and use almost exclusively to listen to my iPod: http://m.target.com/p/crosley-solo-am-fm-tabletop-radio-black-cr3003a-bk/-/A-14652511

    There are three dials there: the big one is the tuner; bottom left is POWER/FM/AM/AUX; and bottom right is volume. I was thinking that you could load up a little iPod shuffle, rig it to the back and get a long charger so that it can stay plugged in, on, and on loop all the time.

    The only thing is that from the off position, he’d have to turn the switch two notches to get to the Auxiliary function, past fm and am, and two notches to turn it back off.

    Maybe a good workaround for this would be to superglue the dial so that it stays in aux mode (the little knobs actually come off fairly easily), plug the whole shebang into a power strip with a switch, and teach him that the on/off is not actually on the radio itself, but the big red, glowing switch on the power strip.

    Idk. Just thinking out loud… I could try this myself and video the process if you’re interested!

  2. Jen Reiter

    Hi there 😉

    I’m a friend of Lori’s as well. Although I don’t have any connections or brilliant ideas on how to get this manufactured…I can offer encouragement. My grandmother suffered with this awful disease for the last nine years. I have been in your shoes and beyond your shoes. Your idea is a wonderful one that I know would benefit so many! I pray that someone out there is able to help you with this product. I would also like to mention that as the disease progresses the on/off switch will not suffice, unfortunately. The individual will not be able to remember to turn it on 😔 I suggest the ability to preprogram times throughout the day for it to be on/off. Times when the family knows their loved one will be in the room 😊. Good luck!! And I’m sorry you and your family are having to endure this disease.

    • That’s a great idea! I was thinking that my grandmother could be the on/off switcher, but not everyone would have that option. Thanks for the idea and the support. I’m sorry about your grandmother.

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