Consumer Electronics Show Unveils the Newest in Aging Tech

CAST | January 16, 2019 | by Donna Childress

The future holds wearables, smart clothing, snoring-stoppers, virtual assistants, virtual reality, a self-driving wheelchair, and more.

The future of aging technologies was on full display at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held the first week of January in Las Vegas.
Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of research at the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on the show, told AARP that digital health is now bigger than wearable devices. Innovations that rise to the top include digital therapeutics, devices that help healthcare workers monitor patients remotely, including sleep technology and gadgets such as smart pens that can monitor insulin levels. The show also saw advances in pain management, cardiac monitoring, telehealth, and other topics.
CES 2019: Not just kids, leap for seniors too,” an article in the Deccan Herald, shared some of the most promising innovations. “Tech for Older Adults Takes Spotlight at CES” and “Blood Pressure, Heart and Anti-Snoring Devices Among 'Wearable' Tech at CES,” both from AARP, also outlined the latest and greatest in aging-field tech. Here are some highlights: 

  • Addison Virtual Caregiver, launched at the show, is a female video-based assistant that talks with her seniors, reminds them to take their medicine, and collects data. The data can help predict the seniors’ fall risk, monitor how they are doing after a hospital discharge, and help them to stay independent.
  • Diabetes patients and their caregivers can receive warnings of a coming hypo- or hyperglycemic episode from AerBetics’ bracelets and pendants, which use tiny nanotech gas sensors to check glucose levels.
  • Alcove VR, which enables older adults to visit with loved ones in a virtual living room, launched during the show as a free application on Facebook's virtual reality unit, Oculus. 
  • CarePredict demonstrated how its wearable band can monitor seniors in assisted living facilities and rate their risk of falls, depression, malnutrition, or urinary tract infections. 
  • Chronolife offered a washable smart vest made of cotton and Lycra. Its sensors can monitor electrical activity, breathing, body temperature, and physical activity such as falls. It is not yet approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • A HeartGuide device is a blood pressure monitor that looks like a smart watch; in December, the FDA cleared it as a medical device.
  • Hupnos pairs a smartphone and a mask to keep a senior from snoring. The smartphone analyzes and learns the sleeper’s snoring, runs it through artificial intelligence, then cues a mask to send a vibration that encourages the sleeper to turn over.
  • Move ECG is an inexpensive alternative to the Apple Watch Series 4. It gives an electrocardiogram reading and can help seniors monitor their heartbeat for atrial fibrillation (A-fib), arrhythmia, or other conditions.
  • Pillo is a device that gives medicine and acts as a personal health assistant for older adults.
  • Rendever demonstrated a virtual reality product that enables older adults to experience the excitement of travel through technology—lessening isolation and dementia.
  • Seismic launched a “core wellness suit,” a smart body suit that fits under a senior's clothes and applies robotic power to the senior's hip and lower back. The suit improves posture and can help a senior—or factory worker—to sit, stand, lift, or carry.
  • VRHealth uses virtual reality to offer cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Walabot is a wall-mounted monitoring system that uses radio waves and three-dimensional imaging to check older adults' gait, movement, and breathing.
  • WHILL presented an Autonomous Drive System wheelchair that uses front and back cameras to come to seniors on its own. Large areas like malls and airports are a target market.

AARP Report Shares 2019 Tech Trends 

A recent AARP report, 2019 Tech Trends and the 50+, also was discussed at CES. It reveals that the 115 million Americans over 50 are projected to spend $84 billion on tech products—all for themselves—by the end of the next decade. Other findings include the following: 

  • 94% of people over 50 use technology to stay connected to friends and loved ones.
  • In one year, use of home assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home almost doubled among people 50 and older, from 7 to 13%. In 2018, virtual-reality devices grew 44% in popularity among those over 50.
  • Almost one-quarter of those over 50 have smart cars with driver assistance (automatic parking, emergency braking, lane-change detection, collision avoidance), and 46% plan to make their next car a smart car.
  • More people over 50 use computers and smartphones to play games (63%) than to watch movies or TV (57%); almost one-quarter use them to take online classes for degrees or certificates, or for how-to tutorials.