Exciting New Innovations for Seniors from the M-Enabling Summit


Plant Nanny App

The 5th annual M-Enabling Summit was recently held in Arlington, VA, attracting tech innovators from around the world and leaders of the accessibility community. With its theme of “Accessible Technologies and Environments for All,” the 2016 Summit provided a platform for empowering mobile technologies and focused on next-generation innovations and breakthroughs for seniors and users of all abilities.

The Summit’s program featured more than 120 speakers representing private sector leaders, app developers, policy makers, mobile accessibility experts, and disability advocates. The experts discussed accessibility solutions highlighting five major tracks: cutting-edge mobile enabling solutions, Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities, innovation, inclusive higher education, and scaling up accessibility for business and government. In addition, approximately 25 exhibitors showcased their products and services so attendees could learn firsthand about new and upcoming accessibility innovations.

Below are some exciting innovations for seniors and those with disabilities that have already been released, or are being released in the near future:

Virtual reality: Vodafone is launching a virtual reality (VR) headset that can be used with its new Smart Platinum 7 smartphone. According to the company, “with support from Google Cardboard’s virtual reality experience, the Smart VR headset “will unlock a whole new universe of interactive videos, games and vistas to explore.” Read more about virtual reality in our recent article, “Virtual Reality for Seniors: Traveling Through Time and Reducing Pain.”

Voice-activated web access: Voice-activated and connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, Amazon’s Echo creates a shopping list, checks the weather, news and traffic, plays music, turns lights on and off, sets alarms, and much more. Similar to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, this device allows those with limited mobility or sight to gain increased control of their surroundings with the power of their voice.

Touch-free smartphone: Sesame Enable created the world’s first touch-free smartphone. Through head movements captured by the phones front-end camera, the user controls a cursor on the screen to open and close apps. The Sesame Phone allows those with mobility-related disabilities to access a new pathway of communication and gain greater independence in their daily life.

Uber for hearing-impaired: Uber recently unveiled updates to their service, which allow those who are hearing-impaired to more effectively use their service. The Uber app now allows users to notify their driver if they have a disability, such as deafness, though text message options within the app. The app also had added the option of visual alert cues, in addition to current audio cues.

Smart hearing aid: Resound hearing aids are “smart hearing aids” that seamlessly link with Apple products and allow users to discretely control the volume of their environment with the convenience of ReSound’s iPhone app. ReSound’s connectivity goes beyond just the iPhone though. It links up with the Apple Watch giving even more hidden control of hearing aid settings to the user.

Caregiver check-in: The ElderCheck Now™ app creates an innovative electronic relationship that can relay more information than a phone call. A check-in request is initiated by the caregiver and delivered directly onto the elder’s mobile device. With the press of either a green or red button, the elder responds with their heart rate, location, and a simple status update of “I’m OK” or “Call me!” Additionally, if setup by the caregiver, the elder will see a picture of their caregiver every time they are sent a check-in. Unique identifiers are used to ensure that only caregivers and their designated elders share information.

Smart oven: Toch Smarturns solution transforms existing stoves to SMART stoves, adding intelligence to the kitchen. This solution triggers a local alarm and mobile phone notifications to users and family members, providing alerts to the dangers of an unattended stove. Smarturns is an innovative, inexpensive and simple to install.

Reminder to stay hydrated: Plant Nanny sends occasional push notifications to encourage you to drink water. When you download the app, you input some personal information (height, weight, physical activity level) and then pick out a cute graphic of a plant to represent your body (i.e., your physical “plant.”) Plant Nanny tells you how many cups of water you have to drink per day. You can also change the settings to be different sizes of cups, depending on how you drink your water. For every cup of water you drink, you tap the little circle in the bottom right hand corner. The goal is to drink all the cups of water you’re supposed to every day. The plant graphic is used as a visual analogy to show, for example, that your “plant” / body is withering away if you are dehydrated.

Proactive Alternative to Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS): SentinelCare uses traditional motion and specialty sensors to identify conditions that may indicate deteriorating health and/or a need for intervention. Family members and caregivers can automatically receive alerts and telephone notification when conditions warrant and eliminate the need for the loved one to push any button or wear a pendant.

Caregiving Tools: Designed for innovative employers of home caregivers, Torchlight Elder provides personalized action plans, easy-to-use digital tools, and expert advice to help the working caregiver balance the demands of work and caring for an elderly family member. Torchlight elder provides the modern caregiver with an online navigation platform that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any web-enabled device. By using roadmaps that are built into the caregiving platform, the caregiver is able to develop clear action plans that help them care for their elderly family member.

Summit Keynote Outlined Steps to Promote Accessibility

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) delivered the Summit keynote, discussing steps to further promote digital accessibility for seniors and persons with disabilities. Senator Markey is a national leader in technology and telecommunications and has promoted competition, choice, and equal access for consumers during his entire tenure in Congress. For instance, in 2010, he wrote the 21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), the most comprehensive law to ensure equality of access to Information Communication Technologies for individuals with disabilities since the ADA. The CVAA now plays an important role in driving innovation and competition in digital accessibility, a trend addressed by M-Enabling Summit participants this year and in the past. Read more about his speech.

When Technology Isn’t Enough to Age-in-Place

When technology and preventative measures aren’t enough, assisted living or nursing home care may be needed. Nursing homes in the DC Metro area can cost from $120,000/yr to more than $150,000/yr. At the Farr Law Firm, we handle Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection, which is the process of protecting you or your loved ones from having to go broke to pay for nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you or your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest level of dignity and quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please contact us whenever you need our services to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Fairfax Medicaid Asset Protection Law: 703-691-1888 Fredericksburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law: 540-479-1435 Rockville Medicaid Asset Protection Law: 301-519-8041 DC Medicaid Asset Protection Law: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.