Better Aging Experience in Store for Us

Walking around the exhibit floor at the AARP 50+ Expo in Orlando at the beginning of October 2010, I was amazed at the amount of innovative thinking that has gone into making aging more comfortable. The organizers have done a spectacular job informing the Expo’s attendees of various ways to enhance their quality of life. “We are constantly on the lookout for new technology and ideas that help people live their best life at 50-plus,” emphasized CB Wismar, Vice President of AARP Events and the marketing wizard in charge of managing the entire Expo.

We have new tools to help us stay fit, both physically and mentally, well into our old age — read on!
 

Caregiving and Maintaining Connections

Seniors like to maintain independence when possible, but caregivers worry. And everyone wants to stay connected to loved ones. There are ways to accomplish all of this.

The first three companies came out of the personal experiences of their founders, and so they have been completely battle-tested.

Peace of mind for caregivers, independence for seniors

Ajit Pendse, CEO of pomdevices, created Sonamba (www.sonamba.com) out of the need to care for his own parents. It is perfect for seniors who do not have a computer and when the caregiver lives apart. Sonamba monitors motion and sound patterns, alerting caregivers if anything unusual is going on. It provides text messaging, appointment and medication reminders, and a panic button and masks as a digital photo frame or a game console when not used for other purposes. Many seniors prefer to live independently, and this device is the next best thing to having family live in the same house.

Helping grandparents stay connected

Readeo (www.readeo.com) helps grandparents share memorable time reading together with the children they love. Kids won’t hang out in front of a webcam unless there is an engaging activity available and, apparently, reading a book together does hold their attention!

Simplifying care

eCareDiary (www.ecarediary.com) is a free online calendar that a group of caregivers can use to coordinate appointments and keep track of medication and legal documents. There is also an online community and many related tools and resources. For anyone who has ever cared for a sick family member or friend over a long period of time, as John Mills, the founder and CEO of eCareDiary, had to do, this is an invaluable resource.

Aging-in-place

Another great concept in caring for an aging relative is an In-law Cottage. (http://www.houseplans.com/inlawcottage.asp). It is an eco-friendly one-bedroom cottage that can be erected in one’s backyard. It has “age-in-place” features such as zero-step entrances, wide hallways, a curbless shower and more. Since the cottage is completely separate from the main house, it allows multiple generations to live on the same property and still maintain their privacy. Family members can support each other, whether it is a grandparent assisting with childcare or an adult child providing senior care. It is a great alternative for families who are not quite comfortable with institutional arrangements such as assisted living facilities.


There are also many companies working on improving quality of life in retirement. I had an opportunity to speak to a few of their representatives.

Regaining a Sense of Financial Security

Everyone feels a pinch caused by the economic crisis, but retirees are especially vulnerable. Ernst & Young reported in July 2008 that three out of five (60 percent) middle-class retirees would outlive their financial assets if they didn’t cut back significantly on spending. Here is a link to the full report: http://www.paycheckforlife.org/uploads/2008_E_Y_RRA.pdf.

Retiring outside the United States

ECI Development (www.ecidevelopment.com) promotes comfortable retirement in Latin America. They have created complete budgets that outline how a couple can live on $1,000 to $1,200 a month. Michael Cobb, chairman and CEO, freely admits that retiring outside the United States is not for everyone and that anyone considering it should be educated on how to do proper due diligence. ECI developed a list of essential questions to be asked; having traveled in Latin America extensively, I have to say the questions are really good and demonstrate the company’s good will in educating potential clients. 


Staying Active and Alert

These companies help you stay active physically and mentally. After seeing what is available on the market now, barring a major illness, forget about using age as an excuse.

Changing your pattern of physical activity

The Philips DirectLife activity monitor (www.philips.com/directlife) helps you measure how many calories you burn every minute of the day and displays it on a website. Once you get the full picture of your activity patterns, it teaches you to recognize every calorie-burning opportunity and provides the motivation to seize it. The website comes with access to a personal coach. Essentially, you achieve a change in behavior in about 12 weeks. That’s pretty amazing for anyone who needs help staying active. 

Freeing up some time from the chores

iRobot cleans your floors while you are busy with more interesting things. For anyone who uses day-to-day responsibilities as an excuse for not having the time to keep their body and mind in prime condition, there are plenty of ways to cut down on the time spent on chores! 

Finally, here are a few products that help exercise your brain. Scientists used to think that the “mature” brain is unchangeable, but they have long since accepted that the brain can rewire itself. Consequently, engaging your senses and your memory is essential to maintaining a healthy brain.

Quality of life through brain fitness

Dakim BrainFitness (www.dakim.com) quotes Gary Small, M.D., as saying that “brain fitness is essential to quality of life” and “dementia is not an inevitable consequence of aging.” The risk of Alzheimer’s begins at age 65, and half of those aged 85 and older are afflicted. Researchers found that seniors who consistently participate in highly mentally stimulating leisure activities had a 63 percent reduced risk of dementia. See the study here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022252. Dakim provides rigorous and novel activities for different parts of the brain, exercising long- and short-term memory, language, computation, visuospatial orientation, and critical thinking.

Training key cognitive abilities

“The brain is lazy by nature — without new challenges it will begin to deteriorate just like muscle,” says Dr. Shlomo Breznitz, renowned cognitive psychologist and founder and chairman of CogniFit (www.cognifit.com). “Brain deterioration doesn’t have to occur, thanks to the exercise programs CogniFit has developed.” CogniFit trains the 14 key cognitive abilities that are most susceptible to aging.

Improving driving skills

In addition to exercising memory directly, Posit Science (www.positscience.com) targets important roots of memory and thinking — the ability of the brain to absorb information from the senses. In other words, it improves the brain’s reception of what you hear and see. One of the programs helps you improve driving skills!

This is just a sample of the amazing products available to us. The great news is that we are getting a lot of help from the brightest minds, and this is one more reason to say, “The second half of my life is going to be even better than the first!”