This Virginia-based retailer specializes in researching and marketing tech products for older users. They pioneered the Jitterbug, the large buttoned simple cell phone designed for seniors. They distribute lights, magnifiers and low-cost hearing aids, along with the WOW! computer.
In Canada, there is a group called “Seniors for Seniors” (http://seniors4seniors.ca) in which “junior seniors” age 60-65 can volunteer to assist “senior seniors” aged 85-90 as personal caregivers and drivers. That brings up the question of:
what exactly is a senior?
“Baby boomers” is the name for that abundance of children born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest of these are now over 65 (and the youngest are developing problems reading small type.)
Tony Vagneur, boomer and actual cowboy in Aspen, Colorado declares, “I don’t understand why there’s a dichotomy, separating ‘older people’ from the rest of the world? If it weren’t for older people (over 50, the largest marketing demographic), there wouldn’t be profitable demand for those products that claim to be youth-oriented.”
Of course, he’s a sharp, fit Colorado outdoorsman. It is ridiculous to put him in the same marketing category as a people old enough to be his parents. Yet, young engineers have a hard time imagining the needs of either baby boomers or the older silver generation who now live to be age 90 and beyond.
A Silver Field of Dreams
Susan Estrada reports from the Silvers Summit, the senior tech segment of the 2012 CES (Computer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas (http://silverssummit.com). She quotes Marty Cooper, the engineer credited with inventing mobile phones, as saying that, although young designers long to tap into the senior market, “they can’t ‘think’ like an older adult.”
The video phone of the future has arrived and it’s free. What a blessing for seniors who are separated from their families. “My 91-year-old grandmother in Tokyo uses Skype to keep in touch with my mother in Los Angeles,” writes special librarian Takako Nagumo. But Skype has practical implications beyond family cohesion.
“My 95-year-old grandfather is lucky enough to have found doctors who will make house calls, but my grandmother is always concerned that she may not understand all of the doctor’s instructions, so when the doctor comes, she and my mother both log on to Skype, so my mother can take notes and confer with the doctor, too.” Install Skype on any web-enabled device that is equipped with a camera and a microphone, including smart phones. Computers designed for seniors feature easy access to this generation-spanning technology. Skype was recently purchased by Microsoft.
This European company has developed a simple mobile phone designed to be used by folks with hearing, sight and dexterity issues. It features a large display and buttons, a keypad that announces pressed keys in English or Spanish, hearing aid compatible amplified sound and an emergency SOS button on the back that can be set to text and then sequentially call five preset numbers. The Just5 phone operates on the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard, that is, it uses a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card to store the phone’s information. In the United States, mobile service is provided via a pre-paid plan with TMobile or through a user’s existing plan through TMobile or AT&T. The phone also has a built-in flashlight and an FM radio. Say, my mom might not have thrown this model in the trash!
Distracted driving isn’t the only problem brought by telematics. All those automobile computers communicating wirelessly with outside world can be hacked! This is the story about how researcher at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington infected a car with a Trojan horse virus embedded in a song on a CD.
GQ’s Automotive Editor Jamie Lincoln Kitman suggests that the new in-car communication gadgets pose dangerous distraction for drivers. “I fear that the inundation of drivers with ever-mounting possibilities for multi-tasking distractions is inevitable, a malevolent genie that will not be put back in the bottle,” he writes, with the result that “the carnage must surely mount.” Kitman suggests that an imperfect solution lies in completely automating highways, freeing drivers to play. This will work until the master computer hits a glitch, whereupon, he predicts, “1,300 cars exit the Jersey Turnpike at the same time at high-speed to hit the same space in the parking lot of the same McDonald’s, to visit the same bathroom.”