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Becoming Bionic


PRC Title settlement reverse mortgages reverse mortgage newsLong before “android” referred to a mobile operating system, it described an AI on the TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. In one episode, the android, Commander Data, created a child. The results were amusing, because, while the young android may have been an artificial life form, she possessed the learning curve of a human infant when it came to understanding behavior — or how to eat.

Viewers accepted the premise that one android could create another since Data’s “positronic” brain was no match for a puny human one. And this was taking place in the 24th century.

While it’s true that Data evolved considerably during the show’s seven-year run, eventually even acquiring a sense of humor, at heart (or whatever mechanical substitute was embedded in its place), Data was still a highly developed AI.

But for humans, the moment has arrived: it’s now possible for people to become bionic — which is especially good news for seniors.

No Skeletons in the Closet

One company innovating for people who’ve had strokes or spinal cord injuries is Ekso Bionics, a global pioneer in the field of robotic exoskeletons. These products unlock human strength and potential, amplifying mobility and endurance. In 2016, Ekso Bionics received the first FDA clearance exoskeleton for use with stroke and spinal cord injury levels to C7.

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Ekso Bionics exoskeleton

Watch this incredible 3-minute video, in which an Ekso Bionics patient says, “I was walking before, but nothing like this.”

Of course, it always helps to go straight to the source, or in this case, to have the source come to you: a 92-year-old former Army occupational therapist who became an industrial designer by default. When Barbara Beskind couldn’t reach foods in the very back of her refrigerator, she installed a lazy Susan on the inside shelf. Because she has macular degeneration, Beskind also attached small tactile “bumps” to certain buttons on her phone to make it easier to answer and make calls.

Clearly, Beskind embodies the ingenuity to adapt to her evolving needs. And now, she’s helping gerontologists hack the trials of aging.

Then there is the new breed of medical device companies, which go a step beyond walkers and shower chairs. While a senior’s exoskeleton is being constructed (or if they only need mild assistance at this time), Vive Health offers everything from lumbar support cushions to safety alarms, arthritis compression gloves to balance discs, and much more.

Emotional resilience

And perhaps “bionic” applies to marriage longevity as well, especially in retirement. One couple recently celebrated their 77-year union. The pair of centenarians “have their own sense of humor, which we enjoy,” says their eldest son, himself a longtime senior at 76. One of the couple’s eighteen grandchildren offers this insight: “They care for each other from the bottom of their hearts. They live and breathe each other, so I think that has kept them going. They are very caring, loving and giving.”

We may have to wait a few more years for androids of Data’s caliber to become commonplace. But bionic seniors of every stripe are possible now. So if someone who looks part Borg contacts your office for a reverse mortgage, you’ll be prepared.

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