- Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images
- The number of Americans over the age of 60 will double by 2060 – from 46 million today to 98 million – according to a 2016 report.
- Scientists said people are living much longer than ever before, too. Some tech companies have been tackling aging and conditions like dementia that often affect the elderly.
- It’s a nice change from the past, when tech products were aimed primarily at younger users and left many older users confused.
Our elders may be wise in years but they’re not always very tech savvy, as anyone who’s had to provide tech support to an uncle or grandparent can attest.
But tech products are starting to become more senior-friendly. New innovations, like voice recognition, touch screens and sensors, are making the power of digital technology more accessible to older people. The market for tech products aimed at people aged 60 and over is set to swell by $20 billion in the next two years.
The best tech products for elders need to serve a real purpose in the lives of their users, many of whom may suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of cognitive impairment – there’s no room for superfluous gizmos or useless apps.
This is where apps like Papa and products like Jiobit come in. They answer simple questions like “Where did Grandma wander off to?” and “Who can take Dad to the doctor?” When it comes to tech products for seniors, use will overshadow flash every time.
Check out some the best new, as well as tried-and-true, tech products and services for older adults:
ElliQ, a robot companion
After winning the Best of Innovation award for the Smart Home category at last year’s CES, Intuition Robotics, an Israeli startup and provider of digital companion technologies, announced this past week that its social robot for older adults, ElliQ, is now available for pre-order starting at $1,499.
ElliQ, “the sidekick for happier aging” as the company calls it, is radiant and bright, like a table light, with a moving cylindrical robot head that can make animatronic movements and field vocal requests.
It’s a combination of a touch screen and a voice-enabled home assistant geared to make it easier for seniors to make video calls, set reminders for medication and arrange doctors appointments. You can even play bridge with it.
The product has successfully been tested with beta users aged 62-97 and will ship some time in the summer of 2019.
Noomi, a wristband combining artificial intelligence and sensors
Noomi, a Swedish startup, released its smart wristband a few years back with the goal to better care for the elderly. The wristband itself is filled with hardware sensors and artificial intelligence to monitor all kinds of behavior from sleeping and eating habits to detecting whether a trip or fall happened. Any sort of change, whether minor or major, is relayed to a caregiver.
The wristband’s battery life is quite significant, too: up to 12 months. All of the data it collects is stored on its cloud platform and can be shared with a medical professional in real-time, 24 hours a day.
Jiobit, a real-time location tracker
This small, clip-able device that tracks real-time location was originally designed for children, but can be helpful for seniors with dementia who are prone to wandering off, according to AARP.
Prices start at $99.99 for the device and $8.99 a month with a 2-year commitment. The lightweight gadget, designed so it isn’t easily taken off, also has a “geo-fence” alert, which notifies a caregiver if the person goes outside of a “trusted zone.” Another plus: it lasts up to one week on a single charge.
The device is used all over the world (and in all 50 states), according to a Jiobit spokesperson, and its encryption and security technologies have even gotten the thumbs-up by law enforcement professionals.
Amazon Echo and Alexa
It may not come as a surprise that Amazon’s Alexa can be beneficial for older adults. Simple reminders to take medication, turn on the lights, or even its “ask my buddy” features can be life saving. Caregivers can preset reminders to go off even when someone is not around. Alexa is also a great tool to listen to audio books, get the weather, easily manage your calendar, and keep track of one’s cell phone. Family members can even update to-do lists on an accompanying iOS app, and even prompt Alexa to ask if medication has been taken, etc.
Google Home, voice-activated assistant
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and other voice-activated assistants can benefit those with mild dementias relatively easily by playing audio books, telling jokes, or helping with setting the thermostat, which can alleviate the sense of isolation and boredom that comes with aging. Google Home also doesn’t get tired of answering questions multiple times, like “What day is it?”
Papa, “Grandkids on demand”
The Papa mobile app connects college students with elderly adults in need of care and companionship.
Think of Papa as a Task Rabbit for older adults. Seniors can make an appointment for a “Papa Pal” via the app, computer or by calling. They are then matched with a student, who can run errands, drive to the doctor, watch movies, or just chat. This can be an effective tool to combat loneliness, co-founder and CEO Andrew Parker told TechCrunch.
Students go through a background check, and can be booked for an hour or a full day. The service is $20 per hour – $12 to the students and $8 to the company.
A recent graduate of Y Combinator’s accelerator program, Papa recently raised $2.4 million in funding and plans to expand outside its headquarter state of Florida in the new year to five other regions.
Alzheimer Master, an app that lets those suffering from the disease listen to a loved one’s voice
- Alzheimer Master
As Alzheimer’s disease advances and patients become increasingly confused, it becomes difficult for them to do simple tasks, like drink water. However, when a reminder comes from a loved one, it can be less jarring. Alzheimer Master, an app for Android users, lets you record reminders for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s. About one-third of people 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia).
The app, starting at $10, can also track the patient’s reaction to the reminders, which can be an effective tool in monitoring their health. Content, like photographs, music and videos can also be scheduled to play on a regular basis to improve mood, and an awakening feature can illuminate the room and play a prerecorded voice message when a patient wakes up confused in the middle of the night.
Honor, an on-demand care service
Honor, the tech-enabled care company has raised over $115 million in venture capital and operates in 12 American cities on the west coast.
What makes Honor stand out is its mobile app: families can communicate with their assigned professional caregiver, can check care notes on their client in advance, and ask questions on all the platform.
This means children of elderly parents view care notes so they can see what happened that day, rate the caregiver, and plan future appointments all in one place.
Home healthcare services, like Honor, are projected to see the fastest growth in the next few years, according to a recent report.
Joy for All Companion, life-like pets
- Ageless Innovation
Ageless Innovation is a global company devoted to developing fun and engaging products for older adults, and better known for its furry, life-like companion pets.
These products, like the pet puppy, are designed to create a connection between the pet and older adult, while also bringing joy and comfort. The pet responds to voices with little barks or purrs, and even has a heartbeat that is activated by petting. Prices start at $60.