In my June 3, 2016, blog post, “PARO, CHARLI, Pepper, and the debate around robot caregivers,” I noted the public policy trend toward, and seniors’ preference for, aging in place (i.e., at home). I also talked about geriatrician Louise Aronson’s difficulty with gracefully taking her leave from a loquacious [read: lonely] elderly client who seems to need more than the skeletal support framework she has in place. In closing I said that next time I’d share my own idea for helping the homebound lonely and disabled.
Enter 22-year-old Matt, whom I have not spoken with in a few years. Without our ever comparing notes about the topic, Matt comes along with his idea that perfectly captures what I had in mind when I wrote the blog post! In his demo video is an elderly woman at home equipped with a big-screen TV and a game-specific remote control. She is reading a book when the remote “rings” with a tone and light. “Barbara” is contacting “Shirley” to ask if she would like to play Scrabble. Shirley can respond “Yes” or “Not Now.” The women can see each other on the TV screen and converse just like with Skype. The two can also decide to invite friends in their virtual group to play as well―and they do. Soon they’ve convened four to play in real time―each from the comfort of their own homes. The video shows Shirley using the remote to put her word on the board. The program also lets you choose other board games: You see Shirley contacting “Doris” to ask if she wants to play checkers.
I was excited about the fact that Matt and I were so on the same page. If this tail-end millennial and I were coworkers I think we’d get on swimmingly and productively―a refreshing thought given the current memes that older and younger coworkers mix like oil and water.
As for the product―geez, it seems like a winner that could be put to use right away. It’s a relatively low-tech, low-cost solution that could surely help alleviate loneliness for the less mobile and disabled. The only shortcoming I see is that inserting letters for the Scrabble game is a bit cumbersome, much like searching for Netflix titles on the TV screen. I’ll suggest to Matt that he put some brain cells to work on solving that one.
With fewer people in the demographic pipeline to care for aging baby boomers, family members and others like Louise Aronson might rest a little easier if their charges had a social option like this one. Kudos to Matt―keep the creative juices flowing!