In a world that's quickly heading towards complete automation of everyday tasks, it is easy to believe that technology the domain only of the younger generation, which understands and uses new technologies to their fullest. But in reality, technology is a tool that can be used by anyone, so long as they take the initiative to learn how.
For the older generation, keeping pace with the constantly changing paradigms can be difficult, if not strenuous. Technology, at its core, symbolizes freedom to progress, regardless of age, yet a large proportion of the aging population is unfortunately ignorant to the benefits of today’s best products.
There are a few companies, however, who feel this divide should not exist. These companies spend immense amounts of their budgets on research and development of products that leverage technological innovations to make the lives of millions of senior citizens simpler and less hectic.
Even for companies that don't cater specifically to this group, the trend is shifting towards making products (both hardware and software) accessible to all age groups. Apple has taken large steps towards this vision of an unrestricted user experience, by incorporating several less promoted, but important features like VoiceOver, Siri, and Custom vibration patterns for ringtones.
Here are some of the tech products that can change, for the better, the way our senior citizens perceive and use technology.
5 GrandCare System - $699
In a corporate world, it can be hard to manage the necessary balance between taking care of your elders and focusing on your career. Along comes GrandCare, a tool that seamlessly communicates with wireless sensors that can be set up anywhere in a personal residence and allows users to communicate with loved ones over the internet, all from the comfort of an office desk.
It enables users to log into the GrandCare website to communicate with their loved one, monitor their activity, and also boasts a "tele-wellness" sensor, which allows concerned users to ensure the well-being of their family when the users are out of the home.
What makes this product stand out, however, is the personal touch. One can customize the automatic "caregiver alerts" to remind older family members to take medication, or even send or receive messages. Users may choose to receive a call, e-mail or text message if specified conditions occur, the better to keep them aware of the well-being and whereabouts of loved senior family members.
Anything from medication noncompliance to unusual activity can be options that trigger an alert. The service provides users with flexibility unlike any other product in this category, largely due to the fact that the product was designed and engineered for this specific purpose.
GrandCare also incorporates socialization elements to extend the capabilities of this device. Family can send pictures, messages, voice messages, family videos, music, and more right to the GrandCare System. All in all, it is a complete device that provides an end-to-end solution. From care to socialization and entertainment, it covers all issues well. Available in two models, an interactive touch model, and a simple LCD system, this is a perfect device to not only manage the well being of senior members, but also to ensure their happiness.
4 5Star GreatCall Responder - $49.99 + $14.99/Month
As much as tech companies try to simplify their devices, leaving a minimal learning curve, our senior citizens often find it easier to be told how to use products over the phone. This next product is a functional device, but at the same time, is backed by a strong support service that makes it ideal for aging people.
Developed in conjunction with an urgent response service, GreatCall is a wireless, mobile personal assistant device that provides a convenient and affordable way to protect one’s older family members on the move. The compact, discreet, and GPS-enabled 5Star device can prepare users for uncertain and unsafe situations. At the tap of a button, a holder will be connected to a certified 5Star Agent, or even directly to 911 emergency services.
Aesthetically, the product is minimal and stylish. With only one large button and no display or other unnecessary features, users can conveniently attach the GPS-enabled Responder to a keychain, purse or backpack.
Highly-trained certified response agents identify them, their location, and the problem, and direct them to alleviating the situation. Further, they can dispatch 911 emergency services, provide access to a nurse, or offer additional assistance, if needed.
No matter the situation—walking home alone at night, feeling threatened, or even during medical emergencies— senior citizens can feel empowered and liberated knowing that 5Star services have them covered in case of an emergency.
3 TV Ears - $129.95 +
Watching TV together and sharing favorite movies with loved ones can be a pleasant way to share family moments. Sadly, many older members miss out on this experience thanks to age-related hearing loss.
If that scene sounds familiar, this next product might be a perfect solution. Priced at $129.95, a set of "TV Ears" helps people with hearing loss hear the television clearly without turning up the volume on the set itself.
With this product, users can calibrate a custom volume output to a headset for older members of the family, while others around can listen to the same audio at a different level. It’s an ideal way for families with varying hearing abilities to enjoy entertainment together without anyone having to compromise.
2 Apple iPad - $299 +
Many aging people feel intimidated by the latest gadgets and the thought of trying to keep up with ever-changing trends.
While there might be few who are comfortable with that endeavor, the general trend suggests that a large portion of the senior population is overwhelmed by the prospect. To spend time defragmenting hard drives, calibrating displays, installing drivers, and all the other everyday tasks related to computer use, only to finally find themselves lost in a cluttered file navigation system, is less than ideal for the less savvy seniors. "Windows ? I don't want that folder, so let me delete it!”
Over the years, hardware and software have been engineered to work together harmoniously and provide a seamless user experience, but that hasn't changed the fact that computers are still complex to use – especially for those with no prior experience with them. With the introduction of the iPhone, a new era of design-led products took off. Steve Jobs, the icon of this movement, stood by this rejuvenated style of product development so much that he even decided against "instruction manuals," which were a standard at the time.
With an intuitive UI, where the hand is the input device —and featuring multitouch gestures like pinch to zoom, that seem obvious even to complete beginners, the iPhone began to seem like a pretty good device for senior citizens, too. There was no complicated file system, no "drivers", nor any need to set up anything before beginning to use the device. With the iPad, and its significantly larger screen, the Apple line instantly became a solid bet for senior users.
A larger screen, and the engaging and obvious user interface offered by iOS, makes the iPad a device that will leave seniors at ease when using it — whether it be to video conference with family, or even do some casual reading.
1 Samsung Jitterbug - $99 (No Contract)
The Jitterbug is Samsung’s entry into the easy-to-use phone market, and quite a good one at that. Elders need phones to keep in contact, but often find modern offerings too confusing to use —that’s where the Jitterbug comes in.
Its aesthetic appeal is quite ordinary, if you're into minimal aluminum trims and large glossy screens, but it does have a bold and clear keypad and high contrast text on the screen itself, which makes it ideal for the elderly.
The Jitterbug’s most important feature is its close tie-in with the carrier we featured earlier in this article, GreatCall. The integration is many tiers deep. Not only can owners of both take advantage of GreatCall’s SOS services, but operators can also do simple things like enter a new contact into the phone on a user’s behalf. The GreatCall service needs to be purchased separately, though.
The Jitterbug costs about $65, and one can sign up with GreatCall plans for as little as $15 as a starter option. For any looking to purchase a phone as a gift to senior family members, the Jitterbug is the one to watch for.
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