One approach Carle likes is transforming technology common to today's generation into something their parents can understand and use. Celery's computerless e-mail turns e-mail messages and attached photographs into fax transmissions to older family members who missed the digital revolution. And seniors can reply using handwritten notes that the system converts into an e-mail.
Another nifty piece of technology embraced by many seniors is the Philips Medication Dispenser. Philips programs the device, which gives a verbal command at appointed times to remind seniors to take medication. It dispenses only the appropriate amount, so that seniors cannot take too much or too little. If mom doesn't take her pills, the system automatically calls a family member. Although expensive -- over $800 -- the Philips dispenser, and others like it, allows family members to monitor seniors and ensure they take their meds. "We should encourage anything that helps seniors take their pills," said Carle. "The biggest cause of hospital admissions is medication errors."
Keeping the mind active using brain games is another application of Nana technology, said Carle, who has chronicled the rise of computer-based systems for Eldergadget.com. According to Carle, "it's good to stay in shape physically but you need to keep your mind in shape, too, through exercising your brain. Our brains stop getting bigger, just like our muscles -- starting at age 30!"
Here's a quick look at some other technologies Carle had a chance to try out:
PAL. It looks like a cell phone but it's actually a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS). It can detect falls and provides a 24-hour help service. It can be carried with you, so does not restrict the user to the home. "I have referred to the PAL as a form of 'OnStar for seniors' --I think that is probably the best analogy," said Carle. "One of every three people over age 65 will fall every year. One third of them will hurt something and another third will never walk again because the fall is so bad."
Telikin. The Telikin is a tabletop computer with a touchscreen, "a bit like a giant iPad," Carle said. It allows relatives to remotely fix problems and upload messages and photos; there is no need for a keyboard or mouse; and it has a help button with 24-hour support. However, Carle had trouble getting Skype to work; he also noticed that the Telikin had an alarming habit of uploading everything from Facebook. And you still need to set up an internet connection. But "they got 80 percent of it right," Carle said. "I would recommend it." However, Carle also noted that he has had 85-year-olds using an iPad within three minutes, so for touchscreen technology that anyone can use, "I think it's a tie."
Readeo. This is a service that allows grandparents with internet access and a webcam to read books to their grandchildren interactively (i.e. they can each turn the pages and see each other and follow along). Carle rates this as a great application of technology that allows grandparents and grandchildren to connect in a meaningful and memorable way. The service offers unlimited access to almost 200 books, with the library size continuing to grow. The $10 per month (or $100 per year) membership is required of only one person, who can then read to as many grandchildren/others as have internet and webcam. The downside? The current reading list does not include "classic" children's stories, as royalty fees and licensing rates are too high for this start-up company. As it grows and can afford these titles, it will likely add them as well.