To better meet silvers’ need for technology solutions, some companies have developed hardware and software specifically for the senior population, allowing them to connect with others around the world and view content that interests them. We identify five segments that are catering to silvers in new ways: robotics, tech and apps, virtual learning, social networks, and smart homes.
1. Robotics: Mobility and Assistance
There have been a few notable advances in terms of robotic limbs and exoskeletons, as well as in “social” robots:
Robotic arms and legs: SRI International, launched a venture called Superflex which has developed a supportive robotic suit to enable frail seniors and disabled people to carry out everyday tasks. Japanese company Cyberdyne is trialing robotic arms and legs that can be fitted onto a person/part of the body in order to enable the person to move independently and carry out activities on their own.
Humanoid robot homecare assistants: Jibo is billed as “the world’s first social robot for the home,” and is positioned as a product suitable for elderly people. The robot can “see, hear, speak and help” and can be used as an emergency communication tool. Jibo also serves as a companion, which is appealing to many seniors. The Riken institute in Japan has also developed a humanoid robot, one whose primary function is to assist disabled and older people. The Robear nursing-care robot can help lift people from a bed and place them in a chair or in a bath, and vice versa.
2. Tech and Apps: Keeping in Touch
Communications technologies tailored to the needs of silvers are helping more of them stay in touch with family, friends and loved ones. Notable players in this market include:
It’s Never 2 Late (iN2L): iN2L is a US-based company that provides seniors with technology—tablets, computers and televisions that are preloaded with the company’s customized software—that is easy to use and useful. Its system is based on touch-screen, picture-based applications that allow those with even limited computer experience to operate the devices easily. They are also involved in the Virtual Senior Center, which connects seniors from around the world through group video chats.
Zone V: The company plans to produce a smartphone for people with limited eyesight, hearing or dexterity. It is now in the final preparation stage, following three years of development.
21KE: The company develops cell phones for seniors, and has already released four models. The phones by 21KE run on their own proprietary operating system, Care OS, which has over 65 customized features catering to the needs of seniors.
- RealPad: In the US, the American Association of Retired Persons, a nonprofit social welfare agency, developed a tablet called the RealPad that is specifically designed for silvers. The device comes with preloaded apps and large graphics and icons, which make it easy for older people to use.
- Elderis: Elderis offers an interactive portal, accessible via smart TV or touchpad, that is available for use in private homes and institutions. The company advertises that its portal serves most of the needs of seniors, promoting well-being, comfort and prevention and helping them keep in touch with loved ones.
3. Virtual Learning: Learning and Teaching
Virtual learning centers are helping seniors learn and share knowledge through online classes, whether from their own private home or a residential care facility.
- The Speaking Exchange project was created by advertising agency FCB Brasil and an English-language school called CNA to help the school’s students in Brazil connect with American retirees who can tutor them in speaking English.
- Senior Learning Network is a membership-based program that offers courses to seniors virtually. Seniors can enroll in courses that they are interested in, and attend them from their home or from a senior center. They can also choose to conduct classes and share their knowledge or hobby with other members of the program.
4. Social Networks: Companionship and Dating
Social and dating apps and online platforms created for seniors are helping them find romantic partners and companions for activities such as travel, classes and hobbies.
- Stitch is an online social-networking platform that aims to help seniors find companions. Different from most dating sites, it is not limited to singles; seniors can use the site to find travel companions, group activities, dinner dates or romantic partners.
Lao Lao is a Chinese social-networking app targeting seniors. It has two versions, one for seniors and one for their grown sons and daughters. The senior version helps seniors track their exercise, follow interest groups and share photos with their children. It aims to solve common issues for seniors living in cities, such as loneliness and boredom. The version for sons and daughters provides them with their parents’ health data as well as the content generated by their parents.
- In the US, the Connected Living program leverages technology to create an environment for older adults in senior housing to enjoy greater social interaction. It enables them to connect with loved ones and provides open access to community, educational and healthcare resources.
- Telephone befriending groups involve individuals who make telephone calls to housebound seniors and engage them in lively conversation. These are usually conducted by local councils, support groups and charitable organizations to help ensure that seniors are not isolated from society.
5. Smart Homes: Assisting Independent Living
IoT devices and systems are helping fulfill a range of functions for seniors living independently, reminding them to take medication, providing home security and reducing their dependence on caregivers.
- Sensor alert systems: Companies such as Lively, Evermind and BeClose place discreet sensors for wireless monitoring in homes. The sensors allow adult children to monitor their aging parents, and to offer help if needed.
- Fully integrated smart home systems: AT&T’s Digital Life offering includes an alarm system, door locks and cameras for the home, and is designed to be simple enough to be used by those who are not especially tech savvy.
Technologies designed for the silvers market can be particularly effective at addressing the serious issue of social isolation that can arise from being housebound or mobility constrained. In more-developed economies, technology is virtually breaking down the walls for housebound seniors.
For more details on The Silvers Series read our full report here or check out our previous Silvers Series Blogs: Economic Opportunities Arise from the Aging Population, Older Consumers Embrace Healthcare Tech, Seniors Shift to In-Home Care and Assisted Living, New Tech Concepts Transform Senior Care, Tech’s Value to Mobility-Constrained Seniors.