High-Tech Help For Seniors

Margaret Morris, senior researcher for Intel, demonstrates a phone with a visual caller ID system, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2005, during the White House Conference on Aging in Washington.
One day, people with Alzheimer's disease could have telephones that show them a picture of the caller and remind them who it is and when they last talked.

They might walk across a floor with sensors that check their gait and sound an alarm if they fall. Others might relax on a bed that monitors their pulse and breathing.

New technologies for seniors, supplementing conveniences like The Clapper and emergency warnings like Life Alert, are on display this week at the White House Conference on Aging.

The goal is to provide technologies that "help seniors and their families live happy and healthy in their own home," said Eric Dishman, chairman of the Center for Aging Services Technologies, or CAST, and general manager and global director of Intel Health Research and Innovation Group.

"Technology already has transformed our lives from e-mail to MP3s and from online shopping to cell phones. Now, it's time for technology to transform the experience of aging," said Russell Bodoff, executive director of CAST.

His organization, which put together the technology exhibition, brings together 400 businesses, groups, universities and others working to find new ways to improve life for older people.

There are four main focus areas for the new innovations, Dishman said: disease prevention, early detection, caregiver support and maintaining independence.

Take Intel's phone for those with early and developing cases of memory-wasting Alzheimer's.

A screen like that of a computer monitor sits next to the phone. No more embarrassing pauses while the person getting the call tries to remember who Christine is. Using caller ID technology, the screen can provide a photo of the caller, tell who they are and when they last talked.

Accenture has a medicine cabinet that can be programmed to keep track of what medicine it holds and when it should be taken.

A built-on camera scans the face of the person at the cabinet and a voice can remind that it's time to take a pill. If the wrong bottle is chosen, the voice warns of the error.