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Transcending tech’s targets to craft senior applications

Let’s push the limits of intended tech markets. Pondering the pundits on the latest iThis and the newest fitThat, let’s turn the viewing lens to how the cool and the new could be re-purposed or extended to help seniors. No change needs to be made to hardware, typically, just a tweak here to existing apps – or a new app, that would do the job – feel free to go forth and to market with:

Safe browsing for children – applied to seniors who are new to computers.  Microsoft and a UK group teamed up recently to create a free kid-friendly version of IE9 that limits the surfing with a jump-list that allows parents specify the child’s age and thus specify suitable content.  For the 58% of the 65+ population that’s not online, likely far higher among the 5+ million aged 85+, senior housing staff could configure local browsing to a specific set of sites based on a quick assessment/assist from the nurse or occupational therapist, much like that done by music therapists for CoroHealth.

Fitbit for all ages. Fitbit is hot, hot, hot, for all of you fitness junkies who have been in caves. Let’s see folks use the published API to help seniors who may need encouragement to get up and out of their apartments (again think senior housing).  But a Fitbit for seniors could also note the absence of activity or detect notable change in motion -- at a $99 price point.  Again, senior housing organizations could hand one out upon move-in to independent living homes. With the right app, the wellness nurse could see how a resident’s status is changing over time. 

A TV that gets family caring and caregiving. Smart televisions are getting so smart, but can they be enabled for opt-in family and professional caregiving through Skype? TelyHD was announced at CES and written up in USA Today – sounds like another good shot at tech that could be applied with an app or two to power the picture of connecting seniors to those who care about or care for them.  The TV is in the home, including (again!) the senior living apartment of the seniors, including the apartments of the aged 80+ in those 55+ communities strewn around the country.  Instead of Mrs. Smith being wheeled down to the common room with the computer as the only platform choice, how about upgrading Mrs. Smith’s own TV?

Kinect-based senior chair-and-beyond exercises. Maybe you’ve watched group exercise classes in senior centers or maybe you have seen many Wii bowling leagues.  Without putting any hands on devices, the Microsoft Kinect for Windows release (February 1), may raise the bar on group exercises. By placing a Kinect unit in a room with one PC – could that enable surround remote sensing of people in a room? Are they are moving and dancing along to the guidance and instructions from an occupational therapist -- through the Internet-connected PC? "Great work, let’s pick up the pace, Mrs. Smith!”


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Great point on the TV. Why do communities think it is sufficient to have WiFi and Skype only in the common area? It's like the teacher passing around your note during class or reality TV where your private conversations are there for everyone to behold. Older adults deserve a measure of privacy just like everyone else and should have the ability to have Skype conversations within the privacy of their room or apartment. This means that properties need to realize that WiFi (broadband is a requirement of Skype) in the common areas is completely insufficient. It should also cover resident room or the residents should have an affordable private-pay option within their room.