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Tech helping seniors live healthier and hopefully happier

When it comes to aging, sometimes technology that's simpler that does one thing, well, is better. Here's what we saw at CES 2020 aimed at those who are growing older.

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Handling basic tasks as people grow older, such as remembering to take daily pills, can be difficult. Sometimes it's the memory that's an issue, sometimes it's mobility concerns. But as the population starts to age — 77 million people are expected to be 65 years and older by 2034, according to the U.S. Census — technology companies are seeing this shift as an opportunity to find solutions to support older adults, particularly so they can continue to have the dignity to take care of themselves, and live alone if they choose.

From pill dispensaries that deliver the right meds at the right time to robots that can act as companions, purring and wagging their tail, but never needing a walk or a trip to vet, these devices are bringing some comfort and support to adults who may not be able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but are still enjoying the adventure.

Black & Decker Pria Black & Decker Pria can remind you to take your medication and chat with you as well.GearBrain

Pill reminders

Black & Decker's Pria launched at CES 2019, that combines a pill manager with communication device. Filling it once a month, Pria dispenses medication daily, but also has an A.I. persona, which people can talk with, reminding them about health information they need to stay on top of as well. There's also two-way calling available. (GearBrain is currently reviewing this product and will update our story when we're done with our testing.)

Omron is connecting to a simpler version, and one that's also smaller, which it showcased at CES 2020. The company's new app called Connect 2.0 will launch this summer, and work with RX Cap, a device that looks like a regular pharmacy-issued pill bottle, but with the app allows caregivers and family members to check and see when someone opened the bottle to take their medication — and when they did not.

AARP Homefit AR app The AARP Homefit AR app can highlight areas of a home that need adjusting for those aging at homeGearBrain

Securing a home

The AARP, the non-profit group aimed at those 50-years-old and up, has a new app its testing called Homefit AR, which takes tips from the American with Disabilities Act on how to retrofit a home. You can use the augmented reality app, which AARP's senior vice president of innovation and product development Andy Miller demoed for us at CES 2020, and on an iPad, for example, little bubbles pop up when its aimed at certain areas of the home.

Maybe a microwave is too high and should be brought down to the counter level, or knobs on kitchen cabinets may want to replaced with U-shaped handles. These tips are seen through the AR app, and then after scanning a home, a report is emailed to people. That can be sent to family members, and the AARP is also thinking of partnering with other organizations, like realty groups, so that home-buyers shopping for a space for their elderly parents could see how a new apartment or house would, or would not, work for them. Miller says the app should appear sometime in 2020.

Lovot robot The Lovot robot is designed to bring comfort and friendship to people aging at homeLovot

Robotic pets

Robots as elder-care companions have appeared on the market in the past. But at CES 2020, we saw new, simpler robots, designed for people who want some companionship, yet may not be able to handle the physical responsibilities that come with a pet. Still, having something that can be cuddled, that purrs when held, can be of comfort.

That's the aim of Qoobo, a robot that could be easily mistaken for a cat, save for the fact that there's no head. But there is a tail, and it slips and twitches like an engaged feline. The robot works on rechargeable batteries, which can last about eight hours, and its newest version expected this year will also have a heartbeat, breathe and respond to human voices through an embedded microphone. The company has its original version on sale, a larger sized-robot pet — which does not have a heartbeat nor breathing features — for about $149 which launched in 2018. But the new, smaller version, should be available this year but under $100.

Qoobo - Robot Pillow with a Tail (Husky Gray)

You'll pay quite a bit more for Lovot, a robot on wheels with big eyes and clothes that can be washed. You can also cuddle this larger robot like a puppy, even though it's about the size of a large beagle. The device has facial recognition built inside, said the company, and as you carry it around, and Loot starts to recognize you more, it will begin to connect more to a person. The robot is primarily on sale in Japan, and sells for about $3,000.

Is a $3,000 robot necessary for maintaining someone's independence as they grow older? Hardly. But certainly more companies are looking at smart technology to give people additional options so they can have assistance, at home, as they age — a smart decision for adults and families alike.

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