The annual Consumer Electronics Show, which concluded last weekend, featured many companies showing off new products. A whole section of the giant show focused on products that might appeal to the growing retirement market.
Communication devices that make caregiving from afar easier and cheaper made up one big category. Here are a few of the offerings that you might want to factor into your retirement planning.
The most sophisticated product came from GrandCare Systems, which offers a whole-home, whole-body monitoring system. The system wirelessly monitors vital signs, while motion detectors and video make sure that a patient is eating, going to the bathroom and taking his medicine. A sensor in the bedding makes sure that he is sleeping -- and getting up. All of this information is relayed immediately to caregivers, including doctors and family members who can be far away. The patient also can monitor his own blood-sugar levels, blood pressure and weight. The cost for installation is about $5,000 or $6,000, plus a monthly fee.
Independa is tackling the challenge of social isolation, which troubles so many older people who live alone. Independa's device is embedded in a high-definition television set. It provides a portal for video chat. Instead of watching TV alone all day, the retiree can converse with friends and family using a small screen in the corner of the larger picture. It can make TV watching a family affair with viewers in various living rooms. This is a subscription service that is already available in some nursing homes, but Independa expects to roll out a service for individuals later this year.
Remember the TV ads that featured a woman who cried, "I've fallen and I can't get up?" Well, these devices and services are multiplying. Medical Alert from GreatCall looks like a watch, but is actually a monitoring service. The wearer who needs help pushes a button and a human being answers -- and stays on the line until the help arrives. A subscription is $30 a month. Competitor GreatCall sells a similar service for $15 a month. It pays to shop around.
If you think these are too expensive, take a look at I-Saiso.com, an application that runs on a phone or tablet. For $10 a month, it offers a one-button way for someone to call for help, as well as Skype chats and reports to caregivers when the user is sleeping, waking up or leaving the house.
The tech industry is also recognizing the growing number of people with hearing problems. Silent Call warns people who are deaf that the phone is ringing or the smoke detector is going off. The device comes with both a wearable and a bed vibrator for $250. SonicAlert sells similar signaling systems for a range of prices, with the combination system priced at $210.