“Don’t disturb me now, I’m doing my online banking”
In 2016, a digitally savvy senior might well say this to her visiting children as she efficiently handles laptop financial transactions that once required a trip to the bank. Second only to email, online banking is extremely popular among Dutch elders, according to a recent survey, which found that 75% of seniors use a computer (desktop or laptop) daily. More than half (57%) use either a smartphone or tablet every day.
Surfing the web is also a popular pastime, with app use far down the list. The researchers posit that the trio of favored digital functions fill a need “for which there are no good alternatives in the analog world.”
The digital answer to dementia
Indeed, as digital devices and the Internet continue to mature, ease of use and innovation open the door to unlimited possibilities for seniors, such as Echo for dementia, which gives harried caregivers a break by responding much as they would — minus the frustration from endless repetition, because Echo is a device! Echo can:
• Answer simple questions such as, “What day is it?” or “What time is it?”
• Play music and read audiobooks, without any need for complicated controls
• Tell jokes
• Looks up information, e.g., “What’s on TV tonight?”
• Report traffic and weather
Rick Phelps, 63, who has had Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD) since 2010, calls Echo a godsend. He bought one in February 2016, and writes in his blog, “It has afforded me something that I have lost. Memory. I can ask anything and I get the answer instantly. And I can ask it what day it is twenty times a day and I will still get the same correct answer.”
This digital personal assistant can remind someone to take their medication, at the same time every day, once it’s been given this instruction — a great relief for loved ones who worry that post-it notes are no longer effective.
It also gives older adults with mobility issues or health conditions such as Parkinson’s greater control over their environment, and hence more independence.
What the well-dressed senior will be wearing this season
Wearables now go far beyond watches. In the pipeline are Proximity badges (for those who haven’t invested in an Echo, or perhaps are no longer able to use it) and a hip protector belt that contains a folded airbag (yes, really!). This short video describes how motion sensors detect a human fall in progress and deploy the airbag to prevent a hip fracture — possibly saving a senior’s life.
Similarly, this device enables people with peripheral neuropathy, which can make walking difficult, to walk safely again.
Then there are the “unmentionable” problems, such as leaky bowels. One tech innovator is working on a device to predict bowel movements, so someone can be alerted and get to a bathroom in time.
What about people with severe hearing loss or those who are deaf/mute? People who use American Sign Language (ASL) can don these incredible gloves that translate ASL into text and speech, using sensors and Bluetooth processing. It’s the first such commercial sign language translator on the market. As the young inventors state, “We believe access, and inclusiveness, are catalysts for change.”
The accidental tourist redux
Finally, for the adventurous who may not have the financial resources, physical ability, or desire to travel and explore new worlds, there will be armchair travel via a new merged reality: a mash-up of fantasy, technology, biology and 3D. Magic Leap will permit people to travel via MR: mixed reality. Special goggles trick the brain into thinking it is seeing 3D reality. Its creator calls this, “dreaming with your eyes open.” And like many of the visionary wearables for senior safety and communication, it’s still in development — but not that far away, especially if you’re wearing the special goggles.
While your reverse mortgage clients and prospects look forward to these tremendous technovations, they can keep track of the milestones via their smartphones, tablets and laptops — once they’ve finished with email, banking and web surfing, of course.