Help me make someone's Christmas
December 17, 2011 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for gift ideas for an elderly blind person.

I volunteer at a hospice, and am looking for gift ideas for a 90 something, legally blind man. He primarily misses being able to read, especially things like the newspaper. He has a tape player and gets books on tape from somewhere, but he doesn't seem to be very happy with the selection. I thought about getting him a cheap MP3 player and loading it with audio books/periodicals. The problem is, with his vision, I don't think he could work the controls on most players.

I'd love any thoughts, there are probably all sorts of devices or services for the disabled that I'm overlooking. His primary interests are sports, especially baseball and basketball. Ideas for other things that could cheer him up over the holidays would be great too. He can't eat most holiday foods because of the sugar, so I'd like to make the season less of a bummer for him.
posted by TungstenChef to Shopping (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Many recent-generation small mp3 players have just two or three buttons on them -- a play pause, a back, and a forward. This might be ideal for him if he has someone to load it up. The dedicated readers for the blind are really expensive and have a tendency to get stolen, whether by caregivers or roommates. (As does anything made by Apple.)

There are a lot of sports podcasts and talkshows that could be loaded into the players... again, though, someone would have to do it for him.
posted by SpecialK at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe these guys have something he might like, or maybe there's a similar service a little closer to where you are.
posted by emilyw at 12:05 PM on December 17, 2011

The iPhone (and by extension, I'd assume the iPod touch and iPad) apparently have great accessibility features. I remember seeing Stevie Wonder saying that there was nothing a sighted person could do on their iPhone that he couldn't. I doubt it is that extreme, but I do think you'd be able to control the mp3 player just fine.

I'm not sure if it will read text to you, but that might make it a good reading device too, if it can.
posted by backwards guitar at 12:34 PM on December 17, 2011

Would a radio and headphones be good? You turn it on, find a station, and listen. If he has net access, you could get him an internet radio that he could use to listen to ESPN Radio and the like.
posted by pracowity at 12:38 PM on December 17, 2011

As far as the sugar prohibition goes: I've got a recipe for a fake-sugar apple pie that's pretty good --- it was invented by an older lady I know, who was forbidden suger because of her diabetes. It's pretty good, too! I don't have it on me right now (I'm at work, supposedly....) but I could memail it to you tomorrow.
posted by easily confused at 1:04 PM on December 17, 2011

If it's newspapers that he misses, my grandfather used to have a Radio Reading Service receiver from the Lion's Club (in Buffalo, NY). Fond memory: When we'd visit to take him out to dinner, we'd have to be quiet during the obituaries at 5:30, and if he knew anyone, we'd stop by the wake after we ate. You're in Arizona? A quick Google let me to Sun Sounds, right in your area, and this links to others. Whatever device would work best for him to listen to these on, and maybe some comfortable headphones, might work?
posted by peagood at 2:46 PM on December 17, 2011

Perhaps something warm and comfortable, like microwavable slippers, spa socks or extra soft blanket.
posted by leigh1 at 3:07 PM on December 17, 2011

You could also bring him a bunny, a kitten, a puppy or a little kid to play with.
posted by leigh1 at 3:10 PM on December 17, 2011

Does he belong to your state's library for the blind? They will have a newsreading service for members. Some do it via a special radio station, others by phone in. If he's in the state you list in your profile, here's the info page.
posted by lovecrafty at 3:43 PM on December 17, 2011

Like SpecialK said, he seems like a good bet for podcasts. This mp3 player is $30 from Newegg and seems to have physical buttons. It looks like it is able to take an SD card as extra memory, so if you see him frequently you could have two SD cards--one in the player and one with you to put new podcasts on and then swap them out when you see him. I imagine it would be pretty difficult for him to navigate to a specific track, but it looks like it would do for a podcast-playing device.

I asked a somewhat similar question a week or two back and it's looking like the idea of a cheese subscription won. In a similar vein, do you know anything about what foods he likes? Could you put him together a box of non-sugary food awesomess?
posted by hoyland at 5:07 PM on December 17, 2011

Not quick enough, so I'm seconding the Talking Book and Braille Library, or a Library for the Blind and Print Impaired. These are government services, and they're free. Here's the direct link to the one in Arizona:
They have 60,000 titles on tape, and special players for use by the blind. They also have movies with audio descriptions and newspapers read over the phone.

Are you sure about the sugar prohibition? The man is 90 years old and on hospice; my understanding of hospice (I'm also a volunteer) is that the most important -- the only real priority -- is comfort. If he wants something with sugar, give him something with sugar. If I'm right, chat him up about candy, what he likes, what he remembers. Vermont Country Store seems to have every old-fashioned candy ever made, and their delivery time is speedy.

I can't imagine there's anything much in the way of things that he would be interested in. Can you do something with him? Bringing the paper in and reading the sports pages. Bringing a radio in and listening to a game with him. If he has taste and smell left, bringing a ripe pear, or a pine bough, or candy canes in a vase.

Whatever you do, the fact that you're trying to do something will mean the most to him. Best wishes to both of you, and may you have an especially good Christmas this year.
posted by kestralwing at 5:12 PM on December 17, 2011

If it's in your budget, a subscription to Sirius would give him access to their 30s and 40s music and old time radio show stations, which he might enjoy for their evocative nature and nostalgic benefits.
posted by carmicha at 7:33 PM on December 17, 2011

Thanks for all the ideas everyone. I still haven't decided, but you guys have given me some promising leads.
posted by TungstenChef at 6:42 PM on December 19, 2011

You're right about hospice, kestralwing. If he asked for sweets I would probably bring them to him. He's a longer term patient though, and I think he recognizes that eating them could degrade his quality of life for the time he has left.
posted by TungstenChef at 6:51 PM on December 19, 2011

As requested: one safe apple pie recipe! The elderly lady who made this was an excellent lifelong cook who was herself on a restricted diet (both for diabetes and digestive reasons); normally, she would never have considered --- gasp! --- a store-bought pie crust, but as she said, "I'm 89, I don't have *time* to waste on pie crusts!"

Grease a pie pan with Pam. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over a square of waxed paper; open a Pilsbury pie crust and place it on the flour. Turn pie crust over and place it in the pie pan flour-side up. Pare, core and slice 6 Macintosh apples, and spread them over the pie crust. Sprinkle with 10 teaspoons Sweet & Low, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 4 or 5 pats of butter. Wet edge of pie crust and put the top crust on. Make a few cuts in the top crust for vents. Paint the top crust lightly with milk. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

(Extra note: for a lot of elderly folks, watch out for foods like strawberries, because the seeds on them are hard to digest, and therefore painful. A lot of vegetables are also difficult.)
posted by easily confused at 4:30 AM on December 20, 2011

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