Seniors evaluate gadgets designed to make lives easier
Rosemarie Schawalder, 86, spoke slowly to an interactive coffee maker, trying to tell the device the time of day to get it ready to brew a steaming pot of coffee.
“I'm sorry,” the coffee pot said as Schawalder stumbled over the numbers. “I didn't get that. Would you like to set the clock or set the brewing time?”
“That is so easy, and I messed it up,” Schawalder said, shaking her head, while her fellow “Tech Test Pilots” chuckled.
Residents of the Passavant Retirement Community in Zelienople gathered last week to take for a test run products that are designed to help the elderly with everyday tasks.
Lutheran SeniorLife technology associate Sharon Whalen showed products to residents, including a device that organized and printed a grocery list.
Last week, the group tinkered with a giant calculator that had a large display and oversized buttons. The calculator also spoke numbers.
Mary Lou Neff, 83, a Passavant resident for more than nine years, had trouble hearing the calculator's tinny voice when there was background noise. She asked the other testers to stay quiet so she could listen.
One of the biggest complaints about the product, Whalen noted: The instruction card for the calculator was tiny, nearly impossible to read.
Many of the products tested by the group have a serious purpose. For example, the group once tested a pair of GPS shoes, which would allow someone to track the location of the person wearing them. For adults who suffer from memory loss, the tracking device could be invaluable if the person gets lost.
Dutch Weber, 91, a Lutheran pastor and resident for seven years, said, “Amen” and “Hallelujah” as he spoke into a headset for a voice amplification device designed to allow people with voice problems to be heard more clearly. The microphone was attached to a speaker that could be worn on a belt.
Whalen said that though companies will occasionally send a product, the Lutheran center buys many of them to test.
Whalen also demonstrated an iPad, as the Lutheran center is buying three of them for residents to use. Whalen showed different apps that would be useful, including one from AARP. She also explained Face Time, saying that residents could use it for free to see and talk to family members who live far away.
Whalen encouraged group members to embrace the technology available to them and to talk about the iPads to fellow residents. The center also has a technology room, featuring computers that are set up to allow the elderly residents to browse the Internet with ease.
At the end of the product testing, the group fills out surveys, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 ease of use, effectiveness, cost and whether they'd buy it or recommend it.
Once the group tests a product, Whalen said, they'll visit the product manufacturer's website, and if there's a place to provide input, they send a message indicating if they liked it and offering improvements.
“It makes you feel like you have input,” said Nadine Simon, 78, a five-year resident of Passavant. “It makes you feel like you're contributing.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.