Innovation

Tech gets a little more senior friendly at CES 2016

Read about four tech solutions at CES 2016 that help seniors live healthier, more independent lives. Also at the event was an exoskeleton suit that simulates what it feels like to age.

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Mother, on display at CES 2016, is a monitoring device that can send medication reminders.
Image: Jason Hiner/TechRepublic

Five years ago at CES, according to Kathy Birkett, there was literally nothing for senior citizens. Birkett is a founder and editor of Senior Care Corner, a website that provides resources for families caring for seniors. Birkett's seen products, particularly health care products, aimed at seniors start to appear slowly over the past few years. "We're seeing some of the devices like the new one from Omron (Project Zero blood pressure monitors) that are easier to use, portable, easy to read, so [manufacturers are] kind of getting the idea of seniors being able to actually use them independently."

Here's a look at some of the tech at CES 2016 geared towards helping seniors.

Mother
This "universal monitoring solution" made up of sensors that communicate with a white, pear-shaped device called Mother, can monitor a lot of things. Particularly useful for seniors, or anyone who can be forgetful about medications really, the sensors can be attached to a pill bottle. If the bottle hasn't moved in a certain amount of time set by the user or a caregiver, Mother will send the user a reminder to take their meds.

Quell
This wearable band stimulates sensory nerves to alleviate chronic pain, drug-free. It also communicates with a smartphone app to track use of the band and the wearer's sleep quality, which may be diminished by chronic pain.

ReSound LiNX2
This smart hearing aid connects with Apple devices like the iPhone and Apple Watch so that users can discreetly adjust the volume on their hearing aid and filter out wind or background noise.

Angela
For seniors who may not be comfortable using a smartphone or tablet, this smart TV offers some of the functions from those devices like video chat and photo and message sharing. Caregivers can also set up reminders for the TV users.

Will seniors actually use devices like these?

One thing to keep in mind: senior citizens are a diverse group with diverse needs when it comes to tech. Birkett mentions her parents are in their upper 70s, and they have iPhones and iPads and communicate via Facebook and FaceTime. They're not likely to buy products made specifically for seniors.

"I'll give you the example of my stepmother," said Birkett. "She's older and she's very active, but she doesn't think of herself as an old person and she wouldn't buy a Fitbit that was geared towards a senior, she would buy a Fitbit. And she'd probably buy the blinged-out one."

At the other end of the spectrum, Birkett mentioned "fragile seniors," those on the verge of needing nursing home care. "Those are the ones who have more needs through technology to keep them safe, to keep them at home."

Simulating the experience of aging

Also at CES this year, the Genworth R70i Aging Experience allowed users to put on a 30-pound exoskeleton suit that simulates the effects of aging. Wearers can see what it feels like to have cataracts, hearing loss, arthritis, and other conditions that commonly affect older people. The simulation exhibit is a partnership between Genworth Financial, an insurance company, and Applied Minds, a technology design company.

"Genworth wanted to build an experience that educated as well as built empathy towards an aging demographic and help encourage people to speak to their loved ones about how they want to age," said Jennifer Rosenbaum, who works with Applied Minds. The reaction of many wearers, according to Rosenbaum: "A newfound awareness and surprise on how socially isolating these conditions can be. Also a realization that they should approach loved ones — and others — with age-related conditions in a more empathetic fashion."

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About

Amy Talbott is an editorial assistant at TechRepublic. She was previously a writer and special publications editor at Louisville Magazine.

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