September 26, 2011

Newer Technology & Its Effect On Retirement

A few weeks ago I featured a guest post from Kate Forgach, a senior-consumer expert for Kinoli Inc. She has offered the following piece on technological advances that are likely to play a part in your life. I'd be interested in your feedback on her assessment.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the body of my youth. As a Baby Boomer dealing with hearing loss (too much rock music), memory loss (not enough Gingko), and unbending knees (too much biking), I appreciate every bit of senior assistance. That gratitude extends to manufacturers developing products tailored for those with reduced capacity or not familiar with our rapidly changing tech world. While some of the following examples weren't originally designed with America's Booomers in mind, they still offer great benefits to those who don't want to get totally left behind.

Here are seven changes age hath wrought in today's technological world.

1. Dumb Phones. I was bereft when my ancient Razr phone disappeared as it was so easy to use and is no longer available. In looking for a replacement, I found most phones have tiny black buttons and keyboards designed more for texting and playing online than for making calls. Some manufacturers are listening to these concerns, however, and creating phones specifically for my brethren. According to reviews, the Doro PhoneEasy series offers basic, easy-to-use phones with big numerals, a bright screen and few unneeded extras.

2. Intelligent Phones. Intel is working on a phone for those who have memory problems. Using caller ID tech, it'll display a photo of the person calling, the user's relationship to the caller, and information about their last conversation. It would be even more helpful if Intel would create a human-implant screen that would jog my memory upon meeting people I "know."
3. Nana Technology. Companies like Accenture and Intel have teamed up with universities and other researchers in the development of gadgets that make life easier. These include smart walkers that users can retrieve by remote control; pillboxes that remind you to take your pills; and mailboxes that let you know when mail has arrived.

4. Tablet Computers I'd give my AARP membership for an iPad. The screen is a joy, the touchpad keyboard is nice and big, and, most importantly, it's entirely intuitive. Apple's security technology also nearly eliminates spyware and viruses, which are a nightmare to eradicate.

In general, touchscreens are easier for seniors to use. It took me just 30 minutes to get an elderly friend up and running on her new Motorola Xoom tablet. Unable to type anymore due to arthritis, the light touch required for these screens opened a whole new world. We loaded a few useful apps, made Google her home page, set up a gmail account and she was off.

5. E-readers. Few books are printed in large type anymore, but e-readers can make every book easy to read. The Kindle, for example, allows users to boost the font size with a touch of a button and the resolution improves with every release. The Barnes & Noble NOOK boasts a full-color display that makes reading even easier.

6. Durable Tech Cases. 
Otterbox has cornered the market on hardcore cases for phones, e-readers, laptops and just about everything else that can be dropped, smashed or end up in water. They also have a stellar reputation for quality customer service, which means seniors don't have to deal with smarmy, unhelpful responders.

7. Online Shopping. Shopping the e-commerce way is so much faster and easier for those facing diminished capacities. Plus, the selections are much larger, it's often also possible to find better prices, and free shipping deals bring your purchase directly to the door without a delivery fee. Isn't technology wonderful? 

Kate: I have resisted the pull of a e-reader to this point, but I assume I'll cave in soon. Now that my e-book is available, I guess I need to get with the program. In addition, my public library has a good selection of downloadable books and magazines so my excuses for not having one are crumbling. And, after just half a year or so with a smartphone, I could never go back. Thanks, Kate, for your overview. 

Kate Forgach is a senior-consumer expert for Kinoli Inc.. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, "ABC World News," NBC's "TODAY" show and many other media outlets. 

I hope you'll consider supporting your favorite retirement blogger and helping yourself in the process by downloading a copy of Building A Satisfying Retirement. Click the botton at the top right of this page to order. If you don't have a Kindle, there is a link that allows you to download a free reader for your PC.


  1. E-readers are a doubled edged sword. If you buy books now, they may have value to you. If youre cheap like me and only get fiction from the library, then they end up costing you money. That said, I do like the large screen option and they are great for travel. I agree that touch screens as opposed to keypads are a great invention.

  2. This article was very timely for me! I am looking into eReaders and similar things for my elderly mother who is vision/hearing impaired. Unfortunately, I am not technologically savvy enough to take care of this without a great deal of research. Thanks so much for this article!

  3. Hi from Maui, Barb,

    So far I am content to use the free Kindle e-reader for the PC and the software my library offers for downloadable books. I did buy a few real paperbacks for this vacation so I can read them at the beach and leave them behind for someone else when fly home.

  4. Anonymous,

    You are welcome. Both e-readers and tablets are great for the elderly because they are so easy to use. An e-reader is perfect for aging eyes because the front size is instantly adjustable to much larger sizes.

  5. After two weeks, i do not know what I would do without my iPad!

  6. Janette,

    I've heard that from everybody who has bought one. It may have to be on my "want" list for the future.

    Aloha from Maui