April 19, 2014

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A Golden Age for Technology Aimed at Boomers

By Daniel Vasquez , Sun Sentinel

Twelve years into his South Florida retirement, former dentist Bruce Foote has happily traded tongue depressors and dental drills for smart phones and mobile applications.

The 70-year-old even sprung for an extra Apple iPad so his wife could share his passion for tech­nology. Bridging the technology gap is increasingly a matter of practicality for the silver-haired set these days.

The booming boomer tech mar­ket has never had more to offer, from websites and mobile apps, to gadgets and e-services. Those who take advantage of the tech options can use them to find everything from turn-by-turn directions to the doctor’s office to help with tak­ing medications.

“I bought the first iPhone when it came out and every new one since, and I plan to buy the new iPhone too,” said Foote, a retired dentist from Michigan now living in Gulfstream. “I do my banking on my iPhone, read newspapers, check e-mail, use Google maps to find where I am going on vacation. I even used an app to navigate the subways safely the last time we were in New York City.”

Using computers and mobile devices to tap the Internet is not only convenient, but may also be a healthy endeavor. Spending time online may reduce the risk of developing depression by 20 per­cent for senior citizens, according to a recent report by the Phoenix Center, a national non-profit that studies public-policy issues related to telecommunications and high-tech industries.

Among the report’s findings: Internet access and use by seniors enables them to maintain rela­tionships with family and friends at a time in their lives when travel and mobility is more difficult.

That’s food for thought, consider­ing approximately 17 percent of Florida’s population is 65 and older — the highest concentration in the nation.

“I have lots of friends who don’t use technology,” Foote said. “And some have a smart phone but don’t bother to learn how to use it because they’re afraid or timid. On the other hand, I have three grandchildren who are amazingly proficient. Their hands fly over the keyboards.”

Seniors or their loved ones look­ing for an introduction to technol­ogy should consider the following:

SMART PHONES

Few makers advertise smart phones for seniors, but it’s worth checking in with your carrier as many models are in the works.

Some will feature an extra loud ring, an “SOS” button that dials 9-1-1 with a single tap and a button that flashes after a call or text is missed.

This month, AT&T announced the release of the Pantech Ease, which operates in both “advanced” and “easy” modes, the latter recommended for seniors and younger users for its stream­lined features, including limited scrolling and larger font sizes for text messages. And for anyone who hates to fumble with cell phone buttons, the Pantech Ease has a “say a command” feature that makes calls, texts or operates an application with voice prompts. Cost is $69.99 after $50 mail-in rebate with two-year serv­ice contract. Visit http://www.wireless.att.com.

Also check out the Motorola H17txt with Motospeak, which reads text messages aloud, and the MOTONAV TN700, which has a spoken-command feature, as well as a large 5.1-inch screen that makes it easier to read maps and Web search functions. Visit http://www.motorola.com.

Doro Mobile also offers a variety of cell phones for seniors that look a lot like calculators and are sim­ple to use, featuring big keys, four memory numbers, an LCD screen, a neck strap and soft touch num­bers. Visit http://www.easytouse­mobiles.

com.

DATA PLANS

Many carriers offer discounted calling and data plans for seniors.

For instance, Verizon offers the “65 Plus” plan, which comes with 200 minutes of talk time per month plus 500 night and weekend min­utes for $29.99 per month. Seniors who want to take advantage of the Web may pay an additional $1.99 per megabyte of data sent or received (ringtones, applications, game, etc.).

A megabyte is enough for about 50 mobile Web page views and two game or ringtone downloads.

AARP members may qualify for discounts with carriers like T-Mobile and Consumer Cellular.

Visit http://www.aarp.org. Check with your carrier for more possi­bilities.

APPS

Whether you use an iPhone, Android or Blackberry cell phone, the app market is exploding with new, useful apps aimed at seniors. Emerging Healthcare Solutions, for example, announced it will release in August the Auto-Med app for the iPhone, which for $10 a month will automatically call users every day to remind them at the precise time of day what med­ication and dosage they are sup­posed to take via doctor recom­mendation. iPad users can also consider the free WebMD app to check symptoms, access drug and

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treatment information and use a tool to identify medicines by pill shape, color and imprint. Visit itunes.apple.com.

For users of particular LG, Samsung and Motorola cell phones, Verizon offers the Pill Phone app for $3.99 a month, which also provides information about med-ications, dosages, side effects and more. The skynetMD Diet Fitness Diary app provides a calorie, fat and protein counter and a burn meter containing more than 40 recommended exercises, for $2.49 a month. Visit http://www.verizonwireless. com.

Blackberry users might consider the Calorie Tracker app for $2.99, which creates a digital diary and tracks calorie, fat, cholesterol and sodium intake for each meal of the day and how many you calories you burn per walk or jog. Visit http://www.blackberry.com.

Check out Daniel Vasquez’s Consumer Talk blog for ways to spend your money wisely, use technology to make life easier and keep your family safe and healthy at Sun-Sentinel.com/consumerblog.