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TECH FOR SENIORS: Granny Nav, Biggie Smalls Tweets, Video Game Bowling
April 27, 2012
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Seniors are the fastest-growing age group in Canada, a reality that's expected to continue over the next several decades, according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. But anyone who thinks that older people are not using technology, or are out of touch, might want to check out the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)'s Twitter tribute to the Notorious BIG from last month, and rethink their position.

Still, with more and more populations aging around the world, technology is going to play a number of roles in seniors' lives, from helping them communicate to helping them drive longer. To that end, scientists in the UK announced this week that they are working on a so-called "Granny-Nav" system.

Here's a run-down of Granny-Nav, and a few other areas of technology designed specifically for seniors.

Granny-Nav

Researchers at Newcastle University say that their new in-car GPS system, which they're calling Granny-Nav, will help seniors get behind the wheel with more confidence. The technology functions like an in-car GPS with very simple instructions, offering basic turning cues featuring images of a pub or a mailbox rather than complicated directions.

The team is also working on expanding the ability of the car itself, through their DriveLAB system, which can track eye movements, monitor concentration and gauge stress levels. So far, about 20 seniors have taken DriveLAB out for a test-run. Their experiments are part of a $19.34 million project concerned with "social inclusion through the digital economy", and they will present their DriveLAB findings in June at an Aging, Mobility and Quality of Life conference.

Making The Call: Senior Cell Phones

Over the years, there have been several attempts at creating senior-friendly mobile phones, often with oversized numbers and highly simplified interfaces. But as The New York Times points out, "many older adults don't like products, like big-button phones, that telegraph agedness".

Instead, seniors tend to reach for basic cell phones that work well with hearing aids and offer an intuitive interface, without being explicitly designed for older customers. One phone designed with simplicity and ease of use in mind is the Jitterbug, which does feature large buttons and oversized fonts, but is also a stylish flip phone. A couple of other models that CNET has identified as popular with seniors are the Motorola WX345, a basic flip phone, and the Doro PhoneEasy 345.

Exergames And Wii Bowling

According to several recent studies, video games can help improve seniors' cognitive functions and physical health. A 2008 study from the University of Illinois found that adults aged 60-70 years old improved multiple cognitive functions by playing strategic video games. Another study conducted by Elon University in North Carolina in 2010 found video games that encourage active movement, or "exergames", can improve strength and balance significantly.

One example of a video game that's caught on with many seniors is Wii bowling (part of Nintendo's 1996 game 'Wii Sports'). The 6th annual National Senior League Wii Bowling Spring tournament took place this past week and featured 160 teams representing 80 senior communities across the U.S.

Related stories on Strombo.com:

Lip-Dubbing Seniors Make Awesome One-Shot Video

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