Gold for the old

An array of tech products for the elderly


Saregama Carvaan is more than a transistor radio. The portable music player has more than 5,000 pre-loaded songs, many from the golden age of Bollywood. And, for a strong hit of nostalgia, it gives older listeners the original volumes of Binaca Geetmala. While features such as Bluetooth and a USB port lend a modern touch to the device, its large buttons and ease of use make it appealing to the elderly.

Carvaan is just one of many recent products designed for the elderly. In fact, there are now curated shopping destinations offering innovative and thoughtfully designed products for them. For instance, there is Seniority, an e-commerce platform and chain of stores exclusively for senior citizens. The company's store in Pune has everything a senior needs, from bathroom and mobility aids to general wellness and leisure products. As I browse the shelves, a torch with an extendable, magnetic head catches my fancy. “Suppose you dropped your key on the ground. You can pick it up easily with this torch,” says the shop assistant.

Then there are the lazy glasses, which can help you read a book or watch television even while lying flat on your back. You do not have to lift your head to see; the glasses' design helps with that.

One of the products I loved was a pen drive, part filled with original recordings of A.R. Rahman, and part free to use. There is a range of such pen drives, starting at Rs500, with music spanning musicians and genres.

Elder care: (From left) lazy glasses, nail-cutter with a magnifying glass, anti-slip socks and a torch with an extendable, magnetic head. Elder care: (From left) lazy glasses, nail-cutter with a magnifying glass, anti-slip socks and a torch with an extendable, magnetic head.

There are also nail-cutters equipped with magnifying glasses, which can be quite handy for elders who live alone. “We have more than 4,500 products on our website,” says Ayush Agarwal, co-founder, Seniority. The IIM alumnus says the company has grown by 500 per cent in 2018.

Indeed, there is a growing customer base for such products. Dr S.G. Talwalkar, a Pune-based pathologist, who says that as most seniors want to age independently, an adult diaper could be one of the best gifts for old parents. He regularly shops for his 94-year-old father, and often gets him stylish gifts. “I buy him umbrellas and footwear specially designed for the elderly,” he says.

One of the most frustrating aspects of getting older is the difficulty of keeping up with technology. Phones, for instance, have become harder to use for the uninitiated. For seniors, however, there are special phones with large buttons and big screens, which are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. They also have features like a torch, safety alarm and an SOS button, and cost between Rs2,500 and Rs4,000. “The phone amplifies the sound during phone conversations or while watching television, making it easier for my mother to hear without having to wear hearing aids,” says Bhopal-based Priyanka Dey Das, who recently bought such a phone for her mom.

Moreover, people who misplace their phones can now relax, for there is a Bluetooth-enabled gadget called The Find, which can track it down. It is a boon for anyone who is forgetful, young or old.

Studies indicate that about 50 per cent of senior citizens fear a fall. But now there are simple products to prevent a fall, including anti-slip mats and anti-skid coating, which makes your floor non-slippery in two hours. One kit costs Rs3,000 and can cover two bathrooms and a kitchen. Sridharakrishnan from Bengaluru vouches for the anti-slip, split-toe socks that provide excellent grip. “It is a great product for someone with walking ailments,” says the 67-year-old. “It enables you to walk freely on slippery surfaces without the fear of falling. The special dye in it ensures that the foot does not slip even on wet surfaces.”

Talking of falling, walking sticks have evolved a lot over the years. Some can be converted into an umbrella; some have quadri-grip for extra support. Walking sticks with foldable seats are also popular.

Among the many problems that plague the elderly, not getting adequate sleep is probably the most common. And hence the importance of devices that monitor sleep. Smartwatches and other wearable devices can analyse sleep patterns, track steps, measure blood pressure and monitor heart rate. Some brands even offer online and telephonic consultations with doctors. They have nutritionists, fitness coaches and specialists, who tell you how to exercise using household items.

For seniors who are hyperactive, and get cranky if not engaged, gifts like a gardening tool or stitching kit could be handy. For someone with an aching back or a swollen knee, there is much to choose from. There are supports and braces for the back, knees, elbows, wrists, thighs and shoulders, and ice bags and portable heaters that can be charged on the go.

Marisha K., 61, uses a heel anti-crack set, one of the popular products on the Seniority website. “It is an effective remedy for repairing dry, painful, hard and cracked skin on heels,” says the Mumbaikar. “I have been using it for over a month now. It does work. The heels look hydrated after removing the set.”

As they say, age is just a number. And now there is the technology to back it up.