Shashikant Mehta, an octogenarian based in Khetwadi, Mumbai, is intimidated by the word ‘smartphone’. He wonders how his grandson can multitask on his touch phone so easily when he himself struggles to even catch a glimpse of the screen.

But as it turns out, there is something for everyone in this smartphone and touch phone flooded market. Even for the non-tech savvy silver-haired citizen. Technology has adapted itself to suit the needs of senior citizens who might be ailing from weakening eyesight and hearing problems.

Rethinking design

Extra-large fonts. Huge keypads. Extra-loud speakerphone coupled with the luxury of the FM Radio. These phones are affordable and are ideal to buy or gift to someone older.

For example, the Indian-based peripheral company, iBall, has launched the ‘Aasaan’ mobile phone aimed at senior citizens. The phone costs about Rs 3,000 and has a very compact design to fit the palm snugly. It also has an emergency SOS feature through which the user can send a pre-recorded emergency message to five preset numbers at the touch of a button.

To give senior citizens a fancy alternative, Samsung has launched the Jitterbug Plus. The phone is light and boasts of a stand-by battery life of 25 days. This is a flip phone with a 1.3-megapixel camera. This phone has an easy one-click option to share pictures on social networking Web sites. How cool would it be to get your grandmom posting pics on Facebook!

Tablet tales

The 10-inch Memo Touch tablet is another gadget that has been specially designed for senior citizens to deal with memory loss. The tablet is designed to provide ‘virtual assistance’ to users. Not only does the tablet give reminders, but also lets you upgrade them remotely as often as you want to. The Memo Touch also has a ‘pill box’ feature which reminds the user to take his/her medicines on time and even has a calendar with a ringtone.

App assisstance

Virtual markets such as Google Play as well as other online application stores are flooded with apps for senior citizens. These apps can be downloaded on any tablet or smartphone.

There is the senior citizen card scheme application which helps both elders and their family members search and select the concessions and services under the “Senior Citizen Card Scheme” of the Social Welfare Department. There is one which lets you customise a virtual keyboard for senior citizens and an online dating application as well.

For senior citizens living alone at home , a technologically advanced aid can help them secure their homes and vehicles. Loop Mobile has launched a mobile-based security solution that involves security automation features and anti-theft services. The user receives an instant SMS alert on his mobile whenever any unauthorised activity is detected.

The subscriber will have a security device installed in his/her home. The device has various wireless sensors (Door, Gas, Fire, Motion) connected to it.

The vehicle security solution allows the user to receive alerts on his/her mobile phone which can communicate the location of the vehicle. This is done through a web-based mapping system and can temporarily immobilise the vehicle in the case of a theft. This solution is powered by Micro Technologies.

(This article was published on August 16, 2012)
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