Was I wrong about Caregiver Robots?

Last July, I closed a blog post on how Family Caregiving is often like a Second Full Time Job with a comment that began with “Caregiver robots are still at least a decade away…” This week GeckoSystems followed Elder Depot on Twitter and let us know that the Carebot™ is a lot further along than I had imagined.

The Future looks Rosie?

Many of us remember Rosie the Robot, the mechanical maid from Hanna-Barbera’s animated sitcom The Jetsons, but how many of us would have guessed that we might just have housekeeping Robots in our lifetimes?

The Carebot™ has a long way to do before it can do the dishes, prepare dinner, or vacuum the floor…but it has passed some major milestones. It can now safely navigate through the chaotic clutter of a real home, hold basic conversions with humans, and keep track of a Senior as they move around the home. These are tremendous breakthroughs that are taking home robotics out of the future and into the now. There’s still a lot of work to be done but the Carebot™ is at the stage where it can provide some valuable Eldercare services…even if it can’t clean up the house just yet.

From the GeckoSystems Website…

Cost Effective Monitoring

Elderly people in nursing homes receive attenhttp://www.geckosystems.com/markets/consumer_familycare.phption from nurses nine minutes per day on average. These places are expensive ($45,000 to $60,000 per year) and not always easy or convenient for family members to physically visit. There is a crisis for cost effective assistance. Concern for their parents is one of the main reasons for adult children to purchase an elder care enabled CareBot™ MSR. It will monitor the care receiver constantly, and it is only a one-time cost that eventually pays for itself.

Virtual Visits

Working parents of all ages seek assistance in caring for their children as a result of working long hours, and having to commute to and from their workplace. The ability to virtually visit their children from work, during travel, or anywhere they have Internet access is now possible. Working mothers and fathers can watch their children routinely in a window on their computer monitors while at work.

Automatic Reminders

The CareBot™ MSR reminds the care receiver to take medication, reminds them that family is coming over soon (or not at all), and it can alert them when there are unexpected visitors, or if intruders are present. It will also keep track of doctor’s visits.

Companionship

The CareBot™ MSR is a new kind of companion that always stays close to the care receiver, enabling family and friends to care for them from afar. It will hold various levels of conversation with the care receiver. The personality, voice, and phrases can be customized.

Automatic Emergency Notification

The CareBot™ MSR notifies designated caregivers when a potentially harmful event has occurred, such as a fall, fire in the home, or the person has simply not been found by the CareBot™ for too long. It responds to calls for help. It can call 911 or, before resorting to 911, work its way through a list of designated emergency contacts.

It’s still going to be awhile before Elder Depot starts stocking CareBots™ but this exciting new Eldercare technology is advancing quickly and should hopefully soon be helping Caregivers/Seniors to live better.

Keep in touch over the holidays!

You might remember me recommending Skype as a great free software gift back on Father’s Day. It’s a practical, innovative, and easy-to-use way to keep in touch with family.

Skype is a free computer program that will allow your family to do something that was once considered the stuff of science fiction. Like the Jetsons, you can keep in touch with loved ones through video conference technology that will allow family to see faces while hearing words. It is a powerful tool to help fight against feelings of isolation and abandonment.

Skype works by transmitting voice and video signals over the Internet. Skype to Skype calls are provided as a free service. Skype is also capable of making calls to normal phone lines though this service has a small fee.

All that Skype requires is a Computer of average capacity, an external microphone, and a broadband Internet connection. A webcamera is needed for video chatting but it’s not required as Skype can be used just for audio. Check it out at…

http://www.skype.com/

Skype is a great tool but it’s not right for every person or every situation. We want to help families keep in touch over the holidays and that’s why Elder Depot offers a full line of Senior Friendly Telephones.

Free Computer Software for Father’s Day

5 “Gifts” that will help keep the computer accessible, safe, and fun.

Each Dad is unique in their own way but if there is one trait that most of them share, its that they are often the hardest people to shop for in a family. Especially in their elder years after they’ve left their workshops, hunting trips, and grills behind them. By this point, most of them already have enough socks and ties to outfit a boy scout troop so don’t even think of going there. Well, how about some free software that will help Dad with that computer sitting in the corner of the room?

Skype

Skype is a free computer program that will allow your Dad to do something that was once considered the stuff of science fiction. Like the Jetsons, he can keep in touch with his loved ones through video conference technology that will allow him to see their faces as he hears their words. It is a powerful tool to help fight against feelings of isolation and abandonment.

Skype Screenshot

Skype works by transmitting voice and video signals over the Internet. Skype to Skype calls are provided as a free service. Skype is also capable of making calls to normal phone lines though this service has a small fee.

Keepass

You may remember me recommending this software in my 10 Steps to Better Protect Elderly Loved Ones Online post a couple of weeks ago; it is one of the most important tools that the Elderly can use to help prevent identity theft while making computer use more convenient.

KeePass is a free open source password manager, which will help your Dad manage his passwords in a secure way. Best of all, he’ll only need to remember a single master password or select a key file to unlock the encrypted database holding the other passwords.

Google Earth

Google Earth is a visual globe, map, and geographical simulation program that will allow your Dad to see the world and beyond. It features a variety of modes including the default 2-D flat view, a 3-D augmented view, a flight simulator, a street view featuring real photographs, and more! It’s possible to view famous locations, study the ocean floor, and even take tours of cities all with this free software.

Los Angeles from Google Earth

3D View of Los Angeles in Google Earth

Miro

Miro is a ‘Internet Television’ and Media Player that will allow your Dad to watch all of his favorite shows from Hulu, YouTube, and other sites without all the fuss or frustrating loading times. It’s quick, simple, and easy. Not only that, it can play almost any sort of media file allowing him to watch the ‘avi’ file his brother sent him and without being told to download a new codec.

JAWS

If your Dad has poor eyesight, JAWS will make his computer accessible to him again. This popular screen reader was developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse. JAWS provides speech and Braille output for the most popular computer applications on your PC. A computerized voice will read text and guide your Dad through Menus and Programs, making it a good aid for those with poor eyesight and an essential tool for the blind.

That’s 5

I almost included Google Calendar, Google Reader, iTunes, VLC Media Player, and Geni. Think of anything I missed? Please let me know in a comment.

What is an Amplified Telephone?

The following is an excerpt from HearingTelephones.com, an informative site sponsored by Elder Depot. Much more information is available on the site including guides on Digital Vs. Analog, Bacteria on Phones, and much more.

What is an Amplified Telephone?

An Amplified Telephone is one that is specially designed to make Sound more ‘Hearable’. Most Basic Amplification increases the Volume or Loudness of Sound. More Advanced Amplification modifies Tone and filters out Background Noise.

Outgoing Sound Amplification?

Most Amplified Telephones only augment Incoming Sound to help the Hard of Hearing but Outgoing Sound Amplified Telephones are also available to help those with soft voices.

Geemarc® AMPLI555 Amplified Phone  +12dB
Clarity® XLC2+™ Cordless 50dB Amplified Phone +15dB
Clarity® Alto Amplified Phone +15dB
Clarity® Alto Plus Amplified Phone +15dB
Geemarc® AMPLI550 Amplified Phone +15dB
Speech Amplified Handset +26dB

How loud is a Decibel?

The reason this question often goes unanswered is complicated and involves logarithmic equations. Skipping the mathematical details, the reason that we can only answer this question with approximations is because every person hears differently and every Sound is unique.

Approximate Decibel ‘Loudness’
0dB The Softest Sound any Human Ear can Hear.
5dB – 15dB Gentle Breeze
15dB – 30dB Whispered Conversation
30dB – 40dB Quiet Country Home
40dB – 50dB Quiet City Home
50dB – 70dB Normal Conversation
70dB – 90dB Times Square, New York at Noon
75dB – 90dB Typical Automobile Assembly Line
90dB – 100dB Riding a Power Lawn Mower
90dB – 100dB Sitting in the Front Row of Full Orchestra
playing William Tell Overture.
110db – 115dB Thunder, from less than a Mile
115dB – 130dB Sitting in the Front Row of a Metallica concert.
120dB – 130dB Sound begins to cause Physical Pain.
This point varies depending on the frequencies a person can hear.
130dB-150dB Jet Engine at Full Throttle from a few Yards.

Decibels, Amplification, and Loudness.

Roughly, the Loudness of a Sound is Doubled with each increase of 10dB. This means that the Loudness of a Sound increases exponentially along the Decibel scale; +10dB would be approximately Twice as Loud, +20dB would be approximately Four Times as Loud, +30dB would be approximately Eight Times as Loud, +40dB would be approximately Sixteen Times as Loud, +50dB would be approximately Thirty-Two Times as Loud, and so on.

The goal of most Amplification is to increase Normal Conversation (50dB to 70dB) to a Loudness that can be heard by the Hard of Hearing. Amplification of 12-26dB usually suffices for Mild Hearing Loss, 30-40dB usually suffices for Moderate Hearing Loss, and 43-67dB usually suffices for Severe Hearing Loss.

Degrees of Hearing Loss
Mild Hearing Loss Moderate Hearing Loss Severe Hearing Loss
Cannot hear Soft Sounds.
May mishear Spoken Words.
Background Noise sometimes drowns out Speech.
Cannot hear Normal Sounds.
Often mishears Spoken Words.
Background Noise often drowns out Speech.
Only Loud Sounds can be heard.
Cannot understand Spoken Words.
12-26dB Amplification 30-40dB Amplification 43-67dB Amplification

Advanced Amplification Technology

Digital Clarity Power ™

Certain Clarity Amplified Telephones feature Digital Signal Processing technology that was first used in hearing aids in 1987 and has since become the industry standard. Clarity was the first to incorporate this patented technology into Amplified Telephones.

Digital Clarity Power™ uses Multiband Compression to determine which incoming sounds are the Human Voice and provide more amplification to those sounds while suppressing background noise. It also features Acoustic Noise Cancellation to reduce echoing, Noise Reduction to filter out static, and Voice Clarity to clarify outgoing sound as well as incoming.

High-Definition Sound (HDS)

Certain Serene Innovation Amplified Telephones feature High-Definition Sound technology.

 

UltraClear™ and ClearDigital™

Certain ClearSounds Amplified Telephones feature UltraClear™ tone management technology and others feature ClearDigital™ Full Digital Power technology.

Telephone Amplifier Units

Amplifier Units that connect to standard Telephones are also available, allowing one to continue using their old phone while still receiving the benefits of amplification.

Hearing Aid Compatible

Many Amplified Telephones are Hearing Aid Compatible. Some are also Telecoil (T-coil) compatible allowing them to be directly connected to many hearing aids; this further helps to filter out background noise.

10 Steps to Better Protect Elderly Loved Ones Online.

My Grandfather loves Youtube; he spends hours looking up folk songs, nature videos, and other little treasures. Despite the fact that he only uses his computer for Solitaire, Email, and light Web Browsing he has repeatedly been the victim of particularly nasty viruses. On more than one occasion he has lost everything on his computer then paid several hundred dollars to get it working again and, supposedly, safe. That was all before I moved back to the area…


The Internet is a chaotic new realm that holds many treasures, like Elder Depot, as well as many dangers. Having grown up in the era before cyberspace, many Seniors are frightened away by talk of viruses, identity theft, and fraud. That’s a shame as the Internet offers great opportunities for Seniors to stay engaged, connected, and aware; the fears are justified but with a few precautions the dangers can be greatly lessened.

It is important to keep things as simple, stable, and streamlined as possible so…when in doubt, automate.

1 ) Keep the Computer Fighting Fit

Computers are frustratingly flawed marvels of technology, as time passes design and programming mistakes are discovered that need correction. Sometimes those flaws are found by designers but, more often, the designers only become aware of the flaw when a new virus appears exploiting it. Enable Automatic Updates on the Computer, this will ensure that gaps in the computer’s defenses will be patched as soon as possible.

How? That depends on the operating system.

2 ) Equip the Computer to Defend Itself

Most viruses work by tricking users into activating them or by taking advantage of security exploits. It’s likely that your loved one’s computer will be infected, perhaps by something as simple as opening an email attachment from a friend. Antivirus defenses are necessary to defend the computer from accidental infections.

Here are a handful of Antivirus options that we recommend.

  • Comodo : Free Windows Protection
  • McAfee : Windows Protection from $39.95.
  • Kaspersky : Windows and Macintosh Protection from $59.95.

Antivirus programs work by checking suspicious programs against a list of known viruses and taking action if there is a match. It is very important to update this list as often as possible, most Antivirus programs can do nothing to stop a virus if it is not on their list. Enable Automatic Virus Definition Updates on the computer and be aware that this is considered a service by most Antivirus companies. Comodo will allow you to download new Virus Definitions for free but McAfee and Kaspersky charge an annual fee – if the fee is not paid then the Antivirus software will only protect against older viruses and the computer will be left vulnerable.

3 ) Shut Peeping Toms out of the Computer

Spyware is a rampant problem fueled by groups from companies looking for marketing information to con artists hoping to steal an identity with a good credit rating. These groups have no qualms invading your loved one’s privacy and it’s up to you to defend that privacy. Fortunately there are several tools that will help with this struggle.

The first line of defense against intrusion is a Firewall; a filter that only allows in the connections that you approve.

If the computer is using Windows, download and enable Windows Defender. Windows 7, 8 and 10 have Windows Defender enabled by default but double check that it is enabled.

Windows Defender is a good start but given the range of malware out there it’s best to give it some backup. Ad-Aware is widely regarded as the best free anti-malware program available and in conjunction with Windows Defender it will protect a computer from most of the spyware out there.

If the computer in question is a Macintosh the most viable defense available is MacScan.

4 ) Keep Passwords Safe Under Lock and Key

For years “Use several different passwords” and “Use stronger passwords” has been the mantra of computer techies. This counsel, while good advice, is often less than helpful for the Elderly. What is the point of ‘stronger’ passwords when they can’t be remembered?

Fortunately, Password Managers offer a nifty solution. This Software offers several advantages; only one password needs to be remembered, a unique password can be used every time, passwords are protected from many spyware techniques, and all stored passwords are encrypted.

  • KeePass : This password manager has a wealth of features and is completely free.
  • RoboForm : This commercial password manager was CNET software of the year in 2008.
  • LastPass : This password manager is a web service that can be over any Internet connection.
  • Kaspersky : This password manager can be purchased separately or with the Internet Security package.

If your elderly loved one insists on writing down their passwords on a notepad, at least convince them to keep the notepad hidden in a secure location.

5 ) Use Stronger Passwords

Spinning off from the last point, what exactly is a ‘stronger’ password? Generally, a strong password is longer than 6 characters, uses lower and upper case letters, contains a few numbers, and possibly a few symbols. sd37$hWnd is a fairly strong password but it’s not easy to remember at all.

It is possible to make a strong password that is easier to remember. Just use personal information that isn’t commonly known. For example, did your elderly loved one play sports in High School? What was the name of the team? What was their jersey number? The name of the coach? Warriors#34O’Brien is a strong password that very few people could guess and that would resist a hacking attempt better than sd37$hWnd. Here’s another example; what was the first car they owned? How much did it cost? Who did they buy it from? Coronet$2110Miller is another fairly strong password that is easier to remember but that would be all but impossible to guess.

Don’t use these as part of a Password

  • Names of Family Members or Self
  • Zip Codes
  • Listed Phone Numbers
  • Sequential Numbers (123…)
  • Sequential Letters (ABC…)
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Personal Identification Number (PIN)

Consider using these as part of a Password

  • Dates of Personal Events*
  • Names of Old Neighbors, Friends, or Pets
  • Old Unlisted Phone Numbers
  • Personally Meaningful Numbers
  • Symbols like #, $, %, &, +, and -.
*First Kiss, Favorite Vacation, Best Promotion, Saw Ginger Rogers on an intercontinental flight, etc.

Always use a combination of information for a password with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. In the past some sites restricted passwords to just letters and numbers, most sites now allow the use of symbols and increasingly more sites are requiring upper and lower case letters. Here are a few more example passwords; Mac@Omaha1944, 1954RR&Clay, 7/20/1969@Jean’s, and 10Pounds!1976Jon.

6 ) Loose Lips Sink Ships

When it comes to Identity Theft a touch of paranoia can be healthy as long as it doesn’t become debilitating. It’s very important to keep personal information private. Most people know that Social Security Numbers, Credit Card Information, Banking Information, Insurance Information, and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) should be safeguarded; fewer know that Addresses, Dates of Birth, and Telephone Numbers should also be safeguarded.

Most legitimate online businesses have security measures in place that keep personal information safe. For example, all personal information sent between a customer’s computer and the Elder Depot server is securely encrypted to prevent eavesdropping or tampering. So it is safe to share Addresses, Credit Card Information and Telephone Numbers with sites like Elder Depot; but it is important to verify that e-commerce sites are legitimate businesses before trusting them with personal information.

Sharing an address online is an open invitation for anyone who reads it to come ‘visiting’. Even if the home is secure sharing an address can give a criminal all the information they need to steal mail and with it identity. This happened to an Uncle of mine, someone ordered a credit report in his name, swiped it out of his mailbox when it arrived, and then used that information to steal a significant amount of money from his savings account. Addresses should only be shared online with trusted parties and then only in private through a secure method.

Phone numbers should not be shared online unless they are unlisted. Looking up a phone number can reveal a lot of information on a person that can be used in scams and fraud.

The best guidelines to give to an elderly loved one is to stick to sites that you verify are safe and never share personal information with sites that you have not verified.

7 ) Upgrade to the latest Web Browser

Over a quarter of Internet users still use Internet Explorer 6; a piece of software with several critical security holes that can give viruses, malware and hackers easy access to a computer. For the best stability, security, and compatibility always upgrade to the latest available Web Browser.

For most programs there is little reason to update to a new and potentially confusing version, but Internet Browsers, Email Clients, and Antivirus programs should always be updated to the latest version for security reasons.

8 ) Use Aliases for Online Socializing

When creating a new email, twitter, or similar account for your elderly loved one, use an old nickname or maiden name instead of a legal name. Choose something that friends will recognize but that scam artists won’t be able to garner any information from. For example, Marion Mitchell Morrison would be smart to sign up for email as JWayne or for Twitter as TheDuke.

Social Websites with a higher level of privacy, such as Facebook, frown on colorful aliases but promise safe registration for real names. These sites are generally safe but it is essential to remember the next point…

9 ) Choose Friends Carefully

In general, the elderly are either too trusting or too paranoid about online friendships. Sites like Facebook are designed to leave privacy up to the user but it can be hard for someone new to cyberspace to judge who can be trusted.

Have your elderly loved one ask themselves a few questions before “adding a friend”.

  • Do they know this person?
  • Do they want to know this person?
  • Is this person who they claim to be?
  • Is this a safe person to be in contact with?

If they are not able to ask these questions and take appropriate action based on the answers, consider managing their “friends” for them. It shouldn’t take much effort and can save them a lot of trouble.

10 ) Use Automated Filters

These days just wandering the Internet or opening email from a friend can be hazardous activities. Remember our rule from the beginning, when in doubt automate.

Yahoo Mail and Google Mail both automatically scan email attachments for viruses. Many Antivirus programs can do the same by plugging into email cilents like Outlook Express and Thunderbird.

K9 Web Protection is a Internet filtering service that is free for home use and was designed for parenting in an Internet age. It offers protection from coming across malicious or pornographic material during a simple web search. This automatic filtering out of questionable material makes the Internet safe again and gives your elderly loved one freedom from worrying if clicking on a link is going to show them something appalling or attempt to infect their computer with something nasty.