A “revolutionary” gait-training robot. An emergency response device said to predict falls. A combination home phone and tablet system that “transforms how older seniors connect with and are cared for by their loved ones.”
Daily, too, I hear tales of technology failing in various ways to do what older people or their worried families expect. I hear about frail elders who remove their emergency pendants at bedtime, then fall in the dark when they walk to the bathroom and can’t summon help.
About a 90-year-old in Sacramento who stored his never-worn emergency pendant in his refrigerator. About a Cambridge, Mass., daughter who has tried four or five telephones — not cellphones or smartphones, but ordinary landlines — in an ongoing effort to find one simple enough for her 95-year-old mother to reliably dial her number and have a conversation.
Which scenario represents the likelier future for senior-oriented technology? It depends on whom you ask.
Entrepreneurs are hard at work developing platforms, apps, sites and devices meant to help older adults manage their health, live independently and maintain family and social connections, all laudable goals. Let’s call their efforts silvertech.
Until a few years ago, “the whole tech world wasn’t sufficiently focused on this enormous opportunity,” said Stephen Johnston, a co-founder of Aging2.0, which connects technology companies with the senior care industry. “It’s changing quite rapidly.” He estimated that 1,500 silvertech start-ups had arisen globally in the past three years.