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Gadgets help seniors enjoy reading, hobbies

If the hobby you enjoy is becoming a pain in your knuckles or joints, or something that’s too difficult to see, help is on the way. In a special two-part series, “Today” invited Jim Miller, author of “The Savvy Senior,” to share some tips on items and organizations to help seniors enjoy their favorite pastimes. Here are his suggestions:

READING — TOOLS AND TIPS
The most popular pastime for older Americans is reading. But, for those who have low vision or physical challenges, like arthritis, reading can become difficult or impossible. Here are a variety of gadgets to help seniors overcome their visual and physical limitations so they can continue to read, or alternatives for those who can't see to read.

READING LIGHTS

Auto Book Light
This clip-on book light automatically lights up when you raise the head and instantly shuts off when you lower it. Weighs just three ounces.$18, www.levenger.com, 1-800-667-8034

LightWedge
The LightWedge is a slender pane of optical-quality plexiglass that sits directly on the page and bathes it in a cool, crisp white reading light — without scattering it on the page. LightWedge with carrying case, $34, paperback LightWedge with case, $24, www.levenger.com, 1-800-667-8034

Multitask Crescent Lamp
For a reader's eyes, this lamp does the work of two very different kinds of light, and both of them fully dimmable. The larger crescent shines warm ambient light through its shade of alabaster glass. The smaller crescent focuses bright, sharp, halogen-powered light directly on your reading matter. The larger crescent is stationary; the smaller one rotates, and the head moves, too, so you can precisely position its beam. The two dimmers operate independently of each other, giving you a broad range of lighting possibilities.$198, www.levenger.com, 1-800-667-8034

READING MAGNIFIERS

Ultra Slim Fluorescent Magnifying Lamp
The only magnifying lamp of its kind on the market, combining a 7-inch diameter glass magnification lens with the most technologically advanced, slimline design and 28-watt output tube.$159.99, us.daylightcompany.com, 1-866-329-5444

Full-Page Magnifier
This rigid, full page magnifier will cover much more area than other hand-held magnifiers. This large (9.5" x10.5") full-page magnifier is made from an optical grade acrylic that is 1/16-inch thick, rigid like glass and will not bend or distort the image. $39.99, www.dynamic-living.com, 1-888-940-0605

VideoEye
VideoEye is a low vision reading machine that uses a camera to magnify text and objects onto a computer monitor or television screen for easier viewing. It is an excellent reading aid and also assists with other everyday activities such as writing and hobbies like needlework and crossword puzzles. Cost between $1,850-$3,800, www.videoeyecorp.com,  1-800-416-0758 

BOOK HOLDERS

Peeramid Book Rest
A unique pillow book holder with integral bookmark props a book at the perfect angle for comfortable reading anywhere. Simply placing the spine of the book into the ledge allows readers a free hand for sipping coffee, taking notes and truly relaxing. $29.95, www.peeramid.com, 1-888-733-7264

Windowpane Page Holder
Hold your book and keep your pages in place with this adjustable bookstand. Windowpane Page Holders hold your books at a comfortable reading angle. The 1 1/2-inch lip keeps the book open to your page.Small $28, large $34, www.levenger.com, 1-800-667-8034

LARGE PRINT PUBLICATIONS

New York Times Large Type Weekly
Developed especially for people with low vision, the large type weekly offers a select package of stories from the past week's papers and crossword puzzle, printed in 16-point type, about twice the size of the regular type size.$78 for a one-year subscription, www.nytimes.com/nytstore/publications, 1-800-631-2580

Reader's Digest Large Type Publication
Experience untold comfort and ease reading the same uplifting articles, medical updates, humor and features from the regular Reader’s Digest, only in easy-to-read large print. With Reader’s Digest Large Print edition you get: monthly large print crossword puzzle, extra large type, bigger photos and illustrations printed on special non-glare paper.One-year subscription (12 issues total) — $27.96, www.rd.com, 1-800-807-2780

READING ALTERNATIVES

The Library of Congress
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped offers a free library service to persons who are unable to use standard printed material because of visual or physical disabilities. Library patrons can borrow audio or braille books such as they might find in print at a local public library. Books and magazines in audio form (talking books) and braille are delivered to eligible readers by postage-free mail and are returned in the same manner. Specially designed cassette players are also loaned free to persons who borrow talking books from their library.To learn more or locate a participating library near you call 1-800-424-8567 or visit www.loc.gov/nls

Choice Magazine Listening
A free audio anthology for a special audience of blind, visually impaired, physically disabled, or dyslexic subscribers. CML selects and records memorable writing from over 100 leading magazines. Every other month, this unique, free service offers its subscribers eight hours of outstanding unabridged articles, fiction and poetry read by professional voices and recorded on four-track cassette tapes. The required four-track player is provided free of charge by the Library of Congress through its Talking Book program.www.choicemagazinelistening.org, 1-888-724-6423

HOBBY HELPERS
Millions of older Americans enjoy doing various hobbies and crafts, but for those who suffer from arthritis or loss of vision, many hobbies can become difficult or impossible to do. Here's a list of different tools to help seniors manage and overcome their limitations so they can continue doing their favorite hobbies.

PAINTING
Loew-Cornell Comfort Style Paint Brushes
Soft Comfort contoured, hourglass-shaped brush handle rests easily in the hand, and rubber grip gives with finger pressure. Offers 144 brushes in six hair types and assorted sizes$3 each, www.artistclub.com, 1-800-845-6507

Easel Lamp
OTT-LITE 13 Watt Easel Lamp. This is a perfect lighting attachment for painting on an easel. The flexible neck and swiveling shade make it easy to direct natural daylight anywhere.$150, www.ottlite.com, 1-800-842-8848

SEWING and NEEDLECRAFT
Fiskars Softouch Multi-Purpose Scissors
Fiskars Softouch Multi-Purpose Scissors have oversized cushion-grip handles for comfort and an easy-action spring that gently opens the blades after each cut, greatly reducing hand fatigue. $21, www.lifewithease.com, 1-800-966-5119

Magnifying Scissors
These four-inch scissors have a removable magnifier. They're perfect for needlepoint, sewing and craft projects.$5, www.miraclepoint.com, 1-800-682-4256

Needle Threader
It's easy to get the thread through the eye of the needle with the Needle Threader.$4, www.dynamic-living.com, 1-888-940-0605

Twin Tower Floor Stand
Solid oak, needlecraft floor stand. Includes an adjustable scroll frame to accommodate up to 24 inches.Stand, $200; accessories: floss box, $60, graph holder, $40, storage bin, $70; www.adp-usa.com, (360) 863-9340

HOBBY LAMP
The Ultimate Lamp The perfect hobby floor lamp that combines elegance with practicality. Three accessories (organizing tray, magnifying lens and chart holder)can be used independently or together. Ideal for needlework, quilting, cross-stitch, sewing, knitting, crochet, reading and more.$245, us.daylightcompany.com, 1-866-329-5444

SCRAPBOOKING
The Scrapbook Lamp The only lamp designed exclusively for scrapbookers with an 18-watt, low-heat daylight simulation bulb. Removable tray is tidy for organizing all your scrapbooking tools — glue, scissors, pens, etc. The handy clip on a flexible arm is ideal for holding any scrapbooking materials.$105, us.daylightcompany.com, 1-866-329-5444

Rolling Scissors
Loop handles provide a painless grip for those who have poor grasp or difficulty with the cutting motion. Works well with construction paper or film. $19, www.theraproducts.com, 1-800-257-5376

KNITTING and CROCHETING
Susan Bates Luxite (oversized knitting and crocheting tools)
A lightweight alternative to standard aluminum. Luxite is a specially formulated plastic material that is very durable, yet provides a completely functional knitting and crocheting tool. Great for those who suffer from arthritis.

  • Jiffy 14" Knitting Needles, sizes 17, 19, 35, 50: $6.50 to $6.95
  • Bulky Crochet Hooks, sizes Q and S: $2.50 to $2.75

www.coatsandclark.com,1-800-648-1479

Comfort Crochet Cushion    
Made to slip over the shaft of crochet hooks. Creates a larger cushioned grip area, making small crochet hooks more comfortable to use and hold.$2.50, www.coatsandclark.com, 1-800-648-1479

CARDS
Card Lover's Gift Set This set makes shuffling and holding cards a breeze. Perfect for card lovers who struggle with arthritis. It includes a battery-operated card shuffler, two card holders and a revolving card tray.$30, www.dynamic-living.com, 1-888-940-0605

Low Vision Cards
Oversized numbers and color codes make these cards fun to play with. Numbers are 1-5/8" high.$5, www.dynamic-living.com, 1-888-940-0605

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