While cutting edge technology often skews toward younger consumers, it can be just as powerful a tool for helping the elderly get by in an increasingly complex world. While touchscreens have been a game-changer for getting older folks comfortable with using computers for things like checking email, playing video games and browsing the web, there are an increasing number of products designed to help keep up with other day-to-day tasks as well. From keeping their home clean to keeping them company, we’ve put together a list of some of the most useful new products out there.
Sontro OTC Hearing Aid
Hearing aid technology is in the midst of a not-so-quiet revolution. In October of 2022, the FDA’s OTC hearing aids ruling went into effect, which essentially lets people buy a hearing aid without a medical exam, prescription or professional fitting. In concert with an explosion of wireless headphone, microphone, and noise-canceling technologies — thanks in large part to the popularity of products like Apple’s AirPods — we’re seeing a resulting boom in hearing aids.
Take Sontro’s OTC hearing aids and accompanying otoTune app, which allow users to customize their hearing aids in just a few minutes on their mobile phone. The app uses machine learning to intelligently identify where a user’s hearing can be improved the most, while directional mics and advanced signal processing in the device help manage noise coming from different directions. The Sontro hearing aids process sound using Wide Dynamic Range Compression (WDRC) to help expand the user’s hearing range across 16 channels. This makes soft sounds louder and loud sounds more pleasant, helping those hard of hearing to live more vibrant, more comfortable lives.
iRobot Roomba j7+, Roborock Q5+
Of all the cleaning technologies that can make a difference for older people, a robot vacuum is right near the top of the list. To that end, iRobot and Roborock make the best robovacs around. iRobot’s Roomba j7+ isn’t the first robot vacuum to use computer vision to avoid treacherous obstacles (think: dropped eyeglasses, pet poop, dropped foodstuffs), but it’s easily one of the best. Not only does the Roomba j7+ navigate with aplomb and gather dust and debris like a champ with its dual roller heads, but it also empties itself into the included Clean Base. Oh, and iRobot is serious about the pet poop: its P.O.O.P. (Pet Owner Official Promise) guarantees that if the robot fails to avoid solid pet waste within a year of purchase, the company will replace it, for free.
Likewise, rather than knocking into walls and getting caught on cables, Roborock’s Q5+ uses LiDAR and cliff sensors to navigate your home with grace. The Q5+ maps your home as it cleans, helping the robovac plan for future cleanings, and creating 2D and 3D models you can see in your Roborock app. The Q5+ automatically detects when it’s low on battery and drives itself to the charging dock before puttering out, and voice alerts from the Q5+ notify you about power and charging status, when it’s about to clean, and everything else you may need confirmation for. Finally, like the Roomba, it empties itself into its own dock — so, rather than having to empty it after every clean, you only need to change out the 2.5-liter dustbag when it fills up (roughly every seven weeks). For seniors looking for a bit of help keeping their home tidy and comfortable, either of these vacs makes a great robotic assistant.
Speaking of robots, Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ is designed as a companion for older adults — a way of combating the “loneliness epidemic” taking place around the world with aging populations. The bot consists of a digital display and a light-up “head” that moves and responds to its user’s voice. The bot can remind people about health goals — taking medications, remembering to exercise — as well as help with ordering rides or grocery deliveries. It can facilitate video calls with family members or doctors, and entertain by playing simple games or reading back audiobooks. ElliQ can even start conversations with users — say, asking about someone’s childhood memories of a great school teacher, or their first romantic crush. Intuition Robotics says these conversations are recorded, and can later be turned into a digital “memoir” for loved ones.
Humanware explore 5 Video Magnifier
Humanware’s explore 5 is designed for active people with vision impairment. It’s a small, lightweight, easy to use video magnifier and monitor: the smallest and lightest 5″ portable CCTV on the market, in fact, featuring HD image quality and a magnification range from 2X – 22X. There’s onboard freeze frame storage for over 1,000 images, HDMI output for larger viewing on a TV or projector screen, 18 enhancement modes to customize the viewing experience, and a three-hour battery life. There’s even a folding stand, which can also serve as a handle.
Designed around the premise that most smartphones and tablets are designed “by 30-year-olds, for 30-year-olds” — and that seniors do best with tech designed specifically for them — GrandPad is a tablet made expressly for older folks. Essentially an Acer tablet running a heavily modified version of Android as its operating system, GrandPad is roughly the size of an iPad Mini. It’s fairly no-frills, technologically: an 8-inch screen, an HD pixel resolution, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage, and 5 megapixel cameras on the front and back. It has a simple interface, and comes as part of a monthly subscription that includes 4G LTE (hence no dependence on Wi-Fi, though it has that too), and ad-free music streaming via 7Digital. There’s web browsing, unlimited photo and video storage, and a library of games (think: less Grand Theft Auto, more solitaire, sudoku, poker, and crosswords). And while it can do email and audio calls, it’s the extremely easy and seamless video calls that stand front and center for older folks who want to keep connected with their friends and families. Finally, if the GrandPad is ever damaged or lost, you’ll get a replacement device mailed to you.