Two years ago when I first started researching aging in place issues, I was not surprised to see that a  lot of investment was being made in silver tech- inventions for the aging population. Looking at the projection of aging population growth,  tech companies where  trying to create useful, profitable  systems and devices to help people live at home longer.  Now it seems some of those same  companies have already crashed and burned on their way to fame and fortune.

Maybe the invention of a monitoring ( ie surveillance) system  that lets a distant loved one or caretaker know every time I open the refrigerator  or take a pill,   did not sell like hot cakes.  Or the company that tries to predict and reports falls -not stop them – does not make sense.  And then there is the robotic cat companion that is just for stroking – no kitty litter necessary.

There seems to be several problems with all this brilliant marketing.  They really did not stop to  find out what the seniors see themselves actually using. Maybe imposing the monitoring technology might be resented not welcomed. You think? Or if folks are too impaired they may leave their alert buttons in the wrong place.

So many of the products I have read about seem to  increase or accent the isolation of the person they are trying to “connect”.  I am not talking about  online programs such as those for post operative  joint replacement to get people literally back on their feet sooner.  I am talking about the  robotic interfaces  that project to be the caregivers of the future? Are human home care workers going to be that scarce?  Some of these ideas are just kind of floating in the wind without anywhere to land. 

Why such a disconnect ?  There will be funding and investing on a continuous basis, as we of course are such a gold mine to be mined.  I think part of the mistake is that they lump seniors together.  A  60 year now has had more exposure to tech  but that does not mean those over 75 (of which  50%  use the internet) do not want to learn or adapt to newer technology. We are a generation that has gone from dial up and not being able to use the phone and the computer at the same time  to the wonder of  free and useful apps like Skype and GPS. We need encouragement to keep up with what is already out there to keep us connected.

All these bright and shiny futuristic inventions, made me think about an ‘old’ resource that I utilized back in the days when it was just a paper catalog not an online data base. Able-Data was set up primarily for assistive technology for the disabled,  but  you can find many adaptive items to make life easier at home.

According to Able-Data ,this government inventory of disability  tech devices has hit  19000 items.  This nonprofit  has some good info on  http://www.abledata.com/ 

It is the most honest  straightforward place to  look up things you might need from bottle opener, to screen magnifiers to ramps. You can not buy from them directly  but they give you the supplier’s websites and  lots of information.

So here is to some self serve technology for the curious.  The solution you find may be your own.