This month’s Aging Technology Watch newsletter

Aging in Place Technology Watch November Newsletter
by Laurie Orlov:

Press awareness (if not politeness) is growing. So on the positive side, reporters (like the NY Times) seem willing to write about technology that can help seniors. On the negative side, the headline writers diminish the benefit with condescending titles like “Helping Grandpa Get his Tech On.” But as the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity, especially when educating the market by expanding awareness is a prerequisite to expanding adoption.

I wonder if we have aging assumptions about seniors and computers. This past month, there was quite a bit of press about the Phoenix Center policy paper describing how Internet usage is a factor in reducing depression in older adults (fyi — you can read my analysis). Combine that finding with the emergence of The FloH Club for providing telephone tech support to older people. I was pleased to sit next to an 80-year-old WebTV e-mail and Internet surfer on a recent flight. Today’s computers are cheap, support is available, software can make them easier to use. And there is 105-year-old Will Clark, amazed and happy with his first computer. The Fox news story quoted Florida State’s Neil Charness as saying it may take longer to learn how to use a computer (more indictment of non-intuitive interfaces). That is no reason to avoid them.

Caregiving technologies need a boost. As I pointed out in my AAHSA write-up, a robot from Cyberdine can lift a person to a standing position, enabling bed transfers that might break the back of a family member or CNA. I am looking forward to the day that price points of robotic assistants drop to the point where home-based caregivers can use them.

Meanwhile, check out the clever mechanical designs from Stander Inc, the vendor of the month. The BedCane, CouchCane, and CarCaddie are truly technologies for aging in place (no computer skills required.)

Blog posts from the past month:

Clarifying terminology about elderly and seniors. Gross assumptions can be derived from studies (like Florida State commentary above) or the Phoenix study on depression that lumps four or five decades together into one word — elderly, or maybe senior. We need to become clear about the results of these studies, segment the results by age group so that we don’t lump 55-year-olds in a similar conclusion about 90-year-olds. Not that I took that personally or anything.

iPods with music for those with Alzheimer’s. This program should be imitated by any senior care organization — find donated iPods and load them with music. Rather than be lined up in the hall or in front of a television, enable long-forgotten songs and memories to be re-activated. This is a program that everyone can encourage — especially at this time of year!

Caution — PERS devices everywhere, maybe not so useful. Worrisome how everyone wants to sell PERS devices — in case big companies like Philips wonder who is in the market — it looks like home alarm dealers are seizing the opportunity. Wish they would combine the sales effort with good assessments of fall risks, partnerships with senior care service providers, home safety assessments — and maybe move beyond the ‘press the button’ type devices.

Remember, you can sign up for blog post notifications on by putting your e-mail address into a Subscribe ‘Feedburner’ box on the left. (Of course within the posts you receive, you can unsubscribe as well.) Registering on the site also enables download of the updated 2009 Market Overview and Health and Technology reports as well.

All the best wishes for a great holiday season ahead!

Laurie Orlov