ElderTech: Ideas from a tech exhibit
Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
I was at the nursing station the other day when some unusual cracking noises caused me to look up from my documentation. A very old, petite lady was sitting in her wheelchair popping bubble wrap. She wore th
e same contented expression that comes over virtually everyone popping a sheet of bubble wrap.
This low-tech soother was on my mind during my visit to New York City’s CE Week. CE, in this case, is not Continuing Education but Consumer Electronics.
In March, I wrote about attending Aging2.0, a tech conference geared toward elders. The CE Week NY isn’t specifically aging tech, but the 50+ set was invited by tech50+ and Senior Planet and I went to see what could be appropriated for people much older than 50.
I was thinking of the happy bubble-wrap popping elder when I came across FidgetTech, a table of high-tech “fidgets.” A fidget spinner is a small, flat plastic device with a central core that remains stable while the three-pronged body is spun in circles. Often marketed as a tool to help children maintain their focus, they’ve become a craze like yo-yos or Silly Bandz.
The display offered a wide variety of fidgets with various electronic capabilities (music! USB hubs!), but what stood out to me was the possibility of calming agitated elders with a basic, silent fidget that, unlike bubble wrap, wouldn’t disturb those around them. I liked the fidget that had “arms” filled with liquid and glitter so that when it stopped, the glitter settled in a slow, mesmerizing fashion. I could imagine a “Fidget Hour” mitigating the agitation that frequently occurs late in the day.
Farther down the exhibit hall, the Rapael Smart Glove display demonstrated virtual reality-based rehabilitation using a variety of computerized games and a plastic sensor “glove.”
(Think Wii for hand and arm rehabilitation.) In addition to the high-tech demonstration, they offered low-tech photocopies of a 2016 study published in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation outlining the glove’s utility for post-stroke patients. The device would be a useful and impressive addition to rehabilitation services.
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