CES Notably light on Tech Gear for Seniors

A few gadgets aimed at seniors are worth noting

As expected, this year’s 2011 Consumer Electronic Show was complete replete with pounding stereos and flashing TV screens.

 Attendees were treated to a particularly awe-inspiring multi-screen, stop-you-in-your-tracks LG display; the white light room with nothing but Audis in it; and that deep-plush Microsoft area -- hard to call it a booth -- with so many Kinect game-playing glassed compartments.

I saw two older men in suits playing an energetic kicking game of soccer with their screen avatars. I walked away, shaking my head. Never have so many people walked so far among so many exhibits of glittery iPhone cases, swoopy tablet sleeves, and sleek headphone cases. And 2011 is obviously the year that tablets are being offered to compete with the Apple’s strangely absent iPad. There were 75 different versions of a device no one needed just one (long) year ago.

While the items may have been scarce, there was some tech gear at the event with an older audience in mind. Here are a few of these new ventures - particularly those with Global Positioning Satellite phones technology and TV as an Internet access device. But be aware that many of these items are ready for primetime quite yet:

  1. United Health Group's DocGPS. What a setup! At the Digital Health Summit, Dr. Harry Greenspun, Chief Medical Officer at Dell Services, complained that it was easier to find a vet for your dog using your cell phone than it would be to find an orthopedic surgeon if you fell down and broke your leg. Out comes the next speaker, Dr. Richard Migliori, Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealth Group, to tell us about United Health Group's free mobile app, DocGPS that will use your location to let you know what doctors are in your immediate area, even enabling appointment scheduling. This nifty device is currently available.
  2. LG's ST600 Smart TV Upgrader - no new TV required.  How ironic - a year ago, all that was left of WebTV was a rapidly fading MSN shadow. Now, every TV at the show was smart, smarter, and smartest about Internet connectivity, with or without built-in apps. Amid all of those TVs, the Korean television-maker LG will offer a small upgrade box - connecting to Wi-Fi or Ethernet - that turns any HDMI TV into a smart, Internet-enabled TV with a very senior-friendly remote. We can hope that senior-friendly carriers (hint, hint to Comcast, Verizon, et al.) will start offering discounts that will help get more seniors online with easy-to-connect TVs. Oh well, one can hope. Check LG.com. The product will be available later this year.
  3. Lifecomm -- the Mercedes Benz of PERS. A joint venture of Qualcomm, American Medical Alert Corp (AMAC) and Hughes Telematics, this sleek and stylish "mPERS" gadget can be worn by a patient on the belt, around the wrist or around the neck. It has sensors, GPS and wireless communications, including a speakerphone. The device will measure movement, automatically alert if a wearer falls. It will be available near the end of 2011. For more information, check Lifecomm.com. 
  4. VitalLink Assisted Computing. Nominated for 'Last Gadget Standing', VitalLink offers a "friendly shell that runs on a touch-screen Windows PC, the company has made it simple for an elderly person to use a PC, including making video calls, cycling through family photos, watching video, reading news (in any size type), playing games, and even watching Netflix movies." It is available now and costs $4.99 per month. For more information, check VitalLink.net.
  5. Telikin Senior Computer. A well-designed computer for seniors, described by the company as "a virus-free alternative PC comes with pre-loaded applications and an integrated menu of the top 10 personal interest functions, including video chat, photo sharing, email, local and national news, address book, weather, calendar, shopping, games and health sites, all in a sleek, touchscreen design." It is currently available. To find out more, visit Telikin.com.
  6. At the show and on the floor. Previously launched products for seniors and their caregivers were scattered across the convention center halls; all are available now. These included:  Independa (software offering calendaring, life stories, and reminders), Sonamba (well-being status monitoring), TabSafe (medication management), Celery (computerless e-mail) and many AgeTek members -- including BeClose (remote monitoring), ClearSounds (phone amplification), Dakim (brain fitness), GreatCall (Jitterbug phone services) and Presto (computerless e-mail), Wellcore (fall detection) and Grandcare Systems (remote monitoring).

In addition to the CES convention hall displays, summits Digital Health and Silvers Summit offered plenty of thought-provoking ideas and trends.

By Laurie Orlov
Aging in Place Technology Watch Blog

[Originally posted as “Cell Phones for Older Individuals,” January 9, 2011, at Laurie's Aging in Place Technology Watch Web site.]

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