Senior approved gadgets

As more of us find gadgets hard to use, tech manufacturers are starting to answer the call beyond big print

Your beloved parents and grannies might be one of them. Believe it or not, about 12 percent of some 3.7million Facebook users in Hong Kong are aged 45 or above, according to a Facebook statistics portal

What’s more, even our 66-year-old Chief Executive Donald Tsang is not lagging behind to show off when he whipped out an iPad in a Legco meeting. He then tweeted using his public account: “I had all my speech and reference materials saved in my tablet … Thanks to technology, it’s time to say goodbye to the thick piles of documents.”

Just because one is, shall we say, mature doesn’t mean these state-of-art cool gadgets hold no interest, be it a phone or a tablet. We too often confuse age with idiocy. For the elderly, what’s really needed are bigger buttons and easy-to-navigate, touch-based interfaces. And more and more designers are now focusing on this booming elderly market when it comes to home gadgets and electronics design.

For obvious reasons, touch screens are popular among the elderly. Many might find it frustrating to navigate using a fiddly laptop keyboard or mouse — taking forever just to click open a file. Touch-based gadgets, ranging from computer monitors, TVs, phones, cooking instruments to blood pressure or heart monitors are increasingly trendy options for the home.

While iPad’s zoom or enlarge function may be dizzying for grandpa, the IC Social Communication Tool, better known as “iPad for the elderly” developed by Norwegian university student Mikael Johansen is just an alternative. The caring grandson realised touch screens might not work for arthritic fingers. That’s why he slightly modified his tablet, which can be programmed to be voice-activated. The frame around even helps stabilise it when it’s in shaky hands. Sounds cool?

If you happen to have a food enthusiast or “cooking mama” at home, a touch-based kitchen set could be ideal. iChef Oven Touch, the brainchild of European appliance manufacturer Gorenje, is a smart oven with a cookbook built in. Apart from its icondriven touch screen, iChef stores your own recipes, measures weights for your food to estimate cooking time and ensures your food gets cooked evenly. Let’s face it: there are 25-year-olds among us that could use one of those.

Do you worry your parents won’t remember to take prescribed medications or that they’ll take the wrong drugs? Meant to be an easy but tech-savvy device, Miguel Vaz’s 3Medis is a pillbox could be just the ticket. These pillboxes are equipped with alarms and timers that will send your parents reminders by phone or email. They allow you to refill, and your parents to dispense pills on time — with one push of the button.

Finally, a wrist-worn reminder device is just another clever design geared towards the elderly, and of course, well-suited to any Mr/ Ms/ Miss Forgetful. The Mnemonic, developed by Ming Kiang Tan, was originally designed with Alzheimer’s sufferers in mind, but it can be programmed to provide a variety of functions, from alarm system, fall detection, event reminder to navigation through GPS. It’s time to put away the pen and notepad, and embrace the new tech. There are plenty of seniors that already have.