This summer at my grandma’s 85th birthday party, in good ol’ Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, Bernice (Gramms) was given a laptop by her eldest son. I wasn’t around when the digital box was passed up a generation, but that night, in a city a couple hours away, I received a Facebook notification stating that Bernice wanted to be my friend on Facebook. The thought of my grandma on the Internet was pretty fascinating, to say the least. I’ve been hinting at getting her connected for years — although my suggestions were mostly in jest.
The PC was brought into Bernice’s home so she could look at digital pictures taken by her smartphone-wielding family and friends. Right. So my Grandma’ s going to open the computer, find a power switch, wait for it to boot, navigate to the photo folder and double-click (what the heck’s a double-click?). The idea of the laptop was great, but I knew that, like an at-home exercise bike, it was more likely to be used as a dust collector.
The image of my grandma using a piece of technology really got me thinking. I began to do a bit of research and found that within the Silicon Valley tech scene, a new concept is emerging — technology for seniors. This summer, Heather Somerville of the San Jose Mercury News covered 3 companies working on products for the elderly: Lively, ClubLocal and ConnectedHealth. Josh Constine of TechCrunch also states that services for senior citizens where one of the top trends in the most recent batch of Y Combinator Startups.
Iggy Fanlo, co-founder of Lively cites the current tech scene as being “youth obsessed.” By focusing on technology for an aging population, products like his will have a “longer lasting social impact.”
One of the Y Combinator-backed startups of the Summer 2013 batch, is Canadian startup, Amulyte, which bridges the categories of wearable tech and technology for elders.
Coined as the “emergency response device that works anywhere,” Amulyte is worn around the neck or in a pocket and acts as a simple help button. It tracks the wearer’s location and activity level and connects with emergency contacts if an issue were to arise.
But Silicon Valley isn’t the only tech hub diving into tech for seniors. According to one source, Japan has been at it for quite some time. Earlier this summer, the Japanese government said that it would release 2.39 billion yen (24.2 million USD) of its 2013 budget to help companies develop elderly tech solutions.
With a rapidly growing aging population, it’s no wonder Japanese engineers are working relentlessly on some really innovative tech:
- back seat driving technology
- a fire alarm that emits a pungent smell of wasabi (for elderly hard of hearing)
- multi-story, high-tech gravestones that can connect to digital photos and videos
- robots to lead exercise classes (see video below)
- a weight support system (by Honda) to assist with climbing stairs or crouching
So – what else is happening in the world of technology for seniors? It’s definitely an interesting market to watch. During the course of writing this piece, I have already suggested purchasing an Amulyte for Bernice – they’ve got to be on to something.