What do you hate about modern technology

If seniors had to decide where they wanted to spend their retirement years, they often had only two equally bad options: Either they gave up their independence, at least partially, and moved to the children or to an old people's facility. Or they stayed in the familiar four walls, but were mostly on their own - even in emergencies. Digitization has now opened up a third option for older people: They still live at home, but use high-tech devices and robots that monitor their health, help them in everyday life and send information to close relatives or their general practitioner via an app. Many children and grandchildren who worry about their mothers or grandmothers living alone should also be able to sleep better in the future thanks to the new tech assistants.

As broad as the range of aids is now, the line between necessary care and total surveillance, on which seniors and relatives walk when using modern technology, is also narrow. After all, it cannot be the case that an older, but vital and self-determined person has to pay for the extra security that they can gain from the use of surveillance cameras by foregoing any privacy. "Of course I have to be allowed to continue walking around naked in my apartment without being afraid that someone will see me," says Renee Acosta, an employee of the US company Electronic Caregiver, one of the many dozen companies that have their ideas and products on the subject "Tech for Seniors" is currently being presented at the CES electronics fair in Las Vegas.

Most providers of geriatric care technology are therefore foregoing the new cameras that have been used by young parents in the USA to monitor their babies and toddlers hundreds of thousands of times for some time. Instead, the companies rely on "stupid" observation devices, as Acosta calls them, such as infrared detectors. Among other things, they register which room the father or grandfather is in, but do not "see" them.

Tech provider Care Predict has developed a system that uses a combination of sensors and trackers installed in the home and worn on the body to collect information on whether the person being monitored is sleeping well, being active, washing or eating. Over time, the underlying algorithm gets to know the retiree's habits and registers when he or she deviates from the usual routine. "If a senior suddenly behaves differently than usual, that is, in all experience, an alarm signal," says Care Predict Marketing Director Subhashree Sukku. For example, if he stays in the bedroom for an unusually long time in the morning, the children receive a message that the father or father-in-law may be depressed or ill. If he does not turn the stove on all day, this is an indication that he may be eating too little or not healthy.

The Care Predict competitor Electronic Caregiver goes one step further, creating a virtual care assistant with the animated computer character Addison. The senior can ask the friendly young woman on the screen, for example, when a doctor's appointment is due, whether you have already taken your medication or whether she wants to play a game (she wants to). A finger clip and other additional devices can be used to determine numerous health parameters such as blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature, which Addison saves and, if desired, communicates to all users of the associated app. If the elderly person falls and cannot straighten himself up, all he has to do is call "help" and Addison will immediately contact an ambulance and the relatives.

However, the use of digital technology goes far beyond the monitoring of family members living alone. There are shoes that register via a sensor in the sole whether their owner has fallen. There are computer programs that enable grandchildren, for example, to send photos to grandma's television. She takes part in the life of her loved ones without having to struggle with the smartphone in her old days. And there are deceptively real-looking plush toy robots that keep a pensioner who no longer wants to take responsibility for a real dog or a real cat company on the sofa.

If you don't take your pills, the robot will kindly remind you to do so

One of the useful auxiliary devices is the Pria drug robot developed by the tool and machine manufacturer Black + Decker. Pria can hold up to 28 doses of medication, and the app determines which pill should be taken when and how often. At the predetermined point in time, the corresponding capsules fall into a cup that the elderly person has to take, empty and put back under the outlet. If he does not, Pria warns in a friendly voice at regular intervals to take the funds - and if necessary informs the relatives or the doctor.

Another useful aid is the earphone system from technology provider Alango. On the one hand, it allows seniors to listen to music in the classical way or to make phone calls. In addition, the buttons in the ear also serve as a hearing aid that filters out unwanted background noise, can be fine-tuned via the app and even offers a mode in which the voice of a conversation partner is played back more slowly for better understanding. If you stand directly across from the person you are speaking to, it leads to the amazing sight that you can hear the voice, but the lip movements of the other do not match what is being said. The medical technology manufacturer Valencell, on the other hand, has developed mini-sensors that can be integrated into practically any earphone and that measure blood pressure and pulse rate and permanently report them to the associated app.

Retirees who still want to deal with the Internet can also become members of a virtual senior housing complex. For a monthly fee you can get help with shopping, washing, visiting the doctor, applying for government support and much more. Above all, however, you keep and find contact with people of the same age. Because with all the love for the children and grandchildren: Who understands you as well as someone who is in the same situation?