Baby-boomers are often referred to as the “Sandwich generation”, stuck between taking care of older parents and family members as well as caring for their own children. It stretches everyone thin, and at CES 2018 we are seeing more and more technological solutions designed to give everyone a bit of peace of mind without forcing anyone to teach Grandma how an iPad works.
We saw one very creative solution in the Aladin lamp. It’s a connected lamp that helps illuminate the way at night while also measuring movements, so it can automatically alert loved ones or emergency contacts if it detects a fall. The idea is that someone mounts an Aladin (or a few, depending on needs) in a high trafficked area. The lamp not only helps light the way, but it can learn to detect things that are out of place (no movement for a long time, unusual movements, if the sensor picks up someone falling, etc.) This data can be used for more than just an acute issue like a fall; by monitoring waking, sleeping, and movement, caregivers and users can bring that data to medical professionals to help with any diagnoses. So if someone feels they are waking often at night and are very thirsty, the Aladin lamp will have the exact data of how many times that person woke up and walked to the kitchen, which is much more precise than just “a bunch of times” or “a lot, I think”. It does require an internet connection, but the company sells a 3G version if the person does not have dedicated internet. This is the kind of product that might be easier to sell to a reluctant parent or grandparent than, say, a LifeAlert button. The lamp is attractive and unobtrusive, and provides peace of mind without necessarily being tech that implies you don’t trust your loved one to live alone.
Of course, in addition to acute concerns, there’s also the fact that for many older family members, the world of smartphones is simply too intimidating and foreign. You can always print and mail photos to Grandma and Grandpa, or you can consider a concept like the Hopen Family. It’s a smart key that allows you to upload videos and photos to the cloud, and the device can automatically display them on the receiving TV without the viewer needing to do anything. It does require WiFi at the moment, but since more and more elder care solutions seem to need some form of internet that’s probably not an impossible barrier to entry. It is easy to imagine how something like this can be a boon emotionally to many older people, as they can literally turn on the TV and see their children and grandchildren enjoying a vacation or sending a video, all without having to be remotely tech savvy. Yes, a Fire Stick or something similar might be able to do the same, but that is multiple steps every time, while this is basically turning a TV into a giant, connected picture frame. It can connect people without intimidating them, which is huge for both the users and the children who need to play tech support.
I have no doubt that by the time we see the true baby boomer generation aging to the point where they need technology to monitor their health, the target audience will be much more tech savvy. They’ll have spent years with iPhones, iPads, Alexa, Google Assistant and other newer technologies, and the ways to keep them connected and safe will adjust along with them. But for now, there is still a swath of aging family members who want to be connected to their relatives and want to maintain their independence, but also don’t want to have to learn a whole new language of technology to do so. Products like these are going to be providing a key service, and it will be interesting to see where they go in the future!