I recently attended a national conference that highlighted some of the latest innovations in products and services for older adults.
Attendees represented companies large and small, start-ups and long-established brands, as well as associations like AARP and the National Council on the Aging.
I came away excited about what I learned, and energized by the creative technologies and solutions these new companies are developing.
Many of them build on the increasingly popular “voice assistants,” such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant. These come as both smartphone apps and stand-alone products (e.g., Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home).
Personally, I have not been a fan of these due to privacy concerns. But it appears older adults are flocking to them, as the products offer hands-free ways of using the Internet without the technological confusions that can come with operating and maintaining computers and smartphones.
Some of the new software products also make use of artificial intelligence (AI). They apply algorithms to the data collected from millions of sources to better understand what people are asking of the machines. But they also apply them to better understand people themselves. You’ll see what I mean below.
Here is a brief selection of new products discussed at the conference. I expect we’ll have more in-depth stories elaborating on some of these (and others) in upcoming issues.
Preventing caregiver burnout: Caregiving issues were one of the biggest areas addressed in the conference. More than 40 million family members and other unpaid caregivers currently provide caregiving in the U.S.
Preventing burnout among these individuals is an important goal that can help keep those being cared for from needing to enter a nursing home.
The company TCare has developed a structured conversation (to be administered by a trained social worker or healthcare professional) that has been shown to identify caregivers at risk of burnout. Following the conversation, an AI algorithm is applied that functions as a screening and assessment tool.
This product has a proven track record, such that it is recognized by the Administration for Community Living, a federal agency, as “a consistent, objective and reliable process” to identify at-risk caregivers.
See more at tailoredcare.com.
Share your legacy: A start-up’s new website and app are designed to make it easy for users to share important stories about themselves with family and friends, and to leave a recorded legacy for the future — all at no cost, for the time being.
Called Megilla, it currently offers more than 750 questions or prompts, such as “What were you like as a child?” and “What is one piece of advice that affected your life?”
From a smartphone, laptop or computer with a camera, a user clicks on a question they want to answer and then has up to three minutes to video their answer.
All answers are stored on the site, and can be easily emailed to anyone of your choosing, or just kept private, if users prefer.
The service plans eventually to start charging a monthly fee ($5 or so, it’s said) to maintain the videos and services, but for now, it’s totally free. Visit megilla.com for more info or to start using.
Improving hearing: Another start-up, called Audio Cardio, has developed a smartphone app that it claims can help preserve hearing and even recover some “lost” hearing ability.
The concept is based on studies that suggest regular audio therapy appears capable of improving the brain’s ability to process frequencies that have been lost due to aging and noise exposure. One study even suggested this type of therapy can help repair damaged hair cells in the inner ear that are essential for hearing.
The app produces tones that are not audible. Users “listen” to these inaudible sounds for an hour a day through headphones or earphones while doing anything else they want (even listening to music at the same time).
The claim is that this strengthens and stimulates the cells in the ear, and reconditions the brain to once again detect sound frequencies that had been inaudible before.
It certainly seems like a great idea. Maybe too good to be true. More studies are underway, so stay tuned (no pun intended). For more information, see audiocardio.com.
May the new year bring all of us new opportunities, as well as innovative products and services, that make life better.
We’ll do our best to cover them here in the Beacon, so please keep reading and recommend us to your friends.
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