With the holidays upon us finding the right gifts for people on our Christmas list becomes problematic. The best presents are items that the recipient will actually use.


One perplexing category is the senior citizen. Senior citizens have an annoying habit of buying what they need when they need it. When you ask them what they want for Christmas they often respond, “ I have everything I need.” Big help, eh?

This scenario is familiar to me because I am one of those annoying seniors. Plus, I am a gizmo guy, so even technological oddities are off the table because chances are I already have one. I currently have my eye on a wireless apple peeler (so if my daughters are reading this don't buy me one).


If you have the same problem I have a solution for the senior on your list. Get them a radio. Before you guffaw at what you perceive to be a ridiculously low-tech suggestion, pay attention to me. What I am suggesting is not only a high-tech version of your “grandfather's radio,” but something that also has a capability that will delight a senior listener.


Get your senior an Internet radio. This is a unit that sits on a shelf or table and has a similar look to the radios seniors have listened to all of their lives. To them (us), it has the comfortable feel of “technology” that is user friendly and familiar. But there is more to this than meets the ear.


The huge difference is that Internet radios are not restricted to over-the-air signals (like regular radios). Using the wi-fi signal in your house, Internet radios can stream hundreds of thousands of radio stations from all over the world. Any station that broadcasts over the Internet is at your fingertips. Some of these are Internet-only and do not broadcast by conventional means. Many are Internet streams of stations you already listen to. Lots of Northern Michigan stations broadcast both over the air and on the Internet.


In addition to all these stations, Internet radio has something that “regular” radio does not – sorting by genre. Like classical music, hair bands, talk shows, news, Slobovian folk tunes? Using the search function of the radio provides lists of stations in a particular category.


Aha, but here comes my “hook” for seniors – Old Time Radio shows (OTR). Ask any senior over age 65 if they remember old radio shows and they most likely will go all nostalgic on you. If they are like me, there was a time before television when laying on the floor in front of the radio was a pleasant memory. Internet radio provides a high-tech way to relive this experience.


There are all sorts of great OTR stations on the Internet which play the old radio shows of the past. The good news is that these shows were preserved by the U.S. military because they were used to entertain the troops over the decades. Also, for some reason, the British are enamored by American vintage radio shows, so many of the OTR stations are actually in England.


Like crime and detective shows? Dragnet, Sam Spade, Philo Vance, Johnny Dollar Insurance Investigator, Gangbusters, This Is Your FBI, Boston Blackie, Philip Marlowe and more are on Internet radio.


Prefer comedy? Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Phil Harris, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Our Miss Brooks, Ozzie and Harriet, The Great Gildersleeve, and Fibber McGee and Molly are funny as ever.


Westerns? Ride along with Gunsmoke, Challenge of the Yukon (Sgt. Preston), Have Gun Will Travel, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, and the Lone Ranger.

Want to get creepy? Listen to The Hermit's Cave, Suspense, The Whistler, Escape, and Murder Is My Hobby.


Stars? How about Frank Sinatra (Rocky Fortune), Jimmy Stewart (the Six Shooter), Alan Ladd (Box 13), Joel McCrea (Tales of the Texas Rangers), My Lucille Ball (My Favorite Husband, the forerunner of I Love Lucy). 


If I seem excited about this it's because I have been a radio guy all my life. I now own two Internet radios and I listen just about every night. When I go to bed, I fall asleep to an OTR show.


Some of my my favorite stations are: 20th Century Radio, Audio Noir, Crimetime, Antioch Radio, ROK Crime and Suspense, ROK American Classics, ROK American Comedy, and AM 600 Conyers, Georgia.


There are many Internet radios on the market, but the one I have is the Grace Digital Mondo. Depending on the store, it costs between $145 and $180. (


The Mondo is small in size but has great sound. It has ten presets, so I can touch a preset button and go directly to the corresponding station. A remote control has the same number of preset buttons. A color LCD display features a Weather Bug readout, access to services like Pandora, an icon for local stations, an alarm clock, and a sleep timer.


You can search for stations on the unit itself, but the Mondo also links to the Reciva station listing service (free at From the Reciva website you can sort and select stations. The stations you “like” are automatically added to the “My Stuff” section of the radio itself and from there you can make any station a preset.


Best of all, all of these stations are absolutely free. There are no subscriptions to pay and no sign up requirements. Just tune in and listen.


I know what you are thinking. Why not just listen on a smartphone or tablet? Well, sometimes it's nice to sit back and enjoy an old friend, even if he or she has on a new outfit. Just ask any senior.


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and