I've been a fan of the universal remote control concept for years, and have owned quite a few, including a brief foray into PC based home-brew solutions, but each have had their own issues, making none an ideal solution.
That said, the current generation of Logitech Harmony products has definitely progressed to the point at which they're something I would recommend for my Dad - because the annoyances have been surpassed by the usefulness.
So - which one to go for?
Well... the first area to avoid is big fancy LCD touchscreens. Yes - they can be good to visualize your favorite channels, but 95% of the time when you've got a remote in your hand, you want to be looking at the TV, not down at the remote. The second issue with LCD based remotes is that they use a lot more power, resulting in something with a rechargeable battery that needs an always on charger (and finding that your remote is out of juice just when you need it most).
So looking for a remote that's all hard-buttons, the best of the bunch I've found recently is the Logitech Harmony Smart Control (UK £69.64) or (US - $99) or elsewhere. This is a tiny but well balanced unit with just the right number of physical buttons (no LCD) to control up to 8 devices through up to 6 macros. It is powered with a simple 3v button cell battery which seems to last ages, so no need for a vampire-power-sucking battery charger. It is also hidden behind a solid door that's quite hard to get open making it less of a concern if you've got small children running around.
The remote has no IR emitter, instead using a wireless connection between a hub unit located close to your TV kit. This means no need to point the remote at the TV - which is liberating, and also allows you to hide your AV kit behind closed doors. I was at first concerned that the latency or lag between a button press and the IR code would be annoying, but I now don't notice any difference between button presses on the Harmony remote vs the original remote.
The hub connects to your local WiFi network (802.11 b/g/n wireless home network, WPA Personal, WPA2-AES and 64/128-bit WEP encryption), and contains one IR emitter on the unit along with a second on the end of a cable, allowing you to have your kit in 2 different places. Your button presses pass over a wireless connection, then are sent by the hub out of one or both of the IR emitters to your AV gear.
You can program the 3 buttons at the top of the remote to start up to 6 activities (3 on a quick press, 3 on a long press) which trigger sets of commands to switch on and configure your TV, HiFi, PC etc. When switching from one activity to another, the system remembers what you were last doing, and shuts down anything you're not using in the new activity. In addition to these dedicated mode buttons, you can re-program any of the other buttons on the unit to specific functions via either a long-press or a short-press.