Not your average techies: AARP members explore gadgets geared toward 50-plus crowd at CES

The Consumer Electronics Show is normally closed to the general public, but AARP arranged for 50 local members to visit on Jan. 7 and check out booths that would be of interest to baby boomers.

“Our national office arranged to allow us to get delegates in, and so we contracted for that and I put a call out to our members,” said Nancy Andersen, public engagement director for AARP. “We tried to target (those) who were interested in technology. We needed 50 … I had all of them within 24 hours. So, these folks are really tuned into technology.”

Robert and Mary McClain of Summerlin said they were interested in home automation, phones and gadgetry. Eric Miller of Henderson said he was interested in wearable technology and the much-talked about Google Glass.

To keep track of everyone, did tour guides rely on the latest GPS trackers? No, T-shirts were donned with a graphic of the iconic “Welcome To Las Vegas” sign, which read “AARP.”

The booths to be visited were decided by a committee beforehand.

“We went through all our sponsors and all our speakers and thought, ‘Who would be most applicable for AARP and who has a nice product to showcase that would be both useful and interesting?’ ” said Lysandra Ferrer, who works in operations for Living in Digital Times, which helped coordinate the AARP event.

Most were health- and wellness-based booths. The companies included: Avery Dennison’s wearable sensors; Humetrix technology that allowed one to share medical records with a doctor at any time, from anywhere; Etymotic, whose products assess, enhance and protect hearing throughout the life cycle; and GeoPalz, which offered a pedometer that lets the user win prizes based on how far he walks.

Other companies wanted to keep people connected to one another. GrandCare offered two-way video chat and a way to send pictures, messages, emails, videos and other communications via a touch monitor. Independa’s booth featured CloudCare services enabling elderly users to remain independent.

The AARP members were broken up into five groups of 10. Even then, it was difficult to keep track of everyone.

Beth Verdin of Henderson said she wanted to be on the tour because she was “fascinated by all this stuff, and it’s hard to find out about things on your own. I’m the person down at the Apple store for one-on-one (information) where everybody knows me. I just can’t learn enough.”

Verdin said she wanted to check out fitness technology that helped with sleep. She recently bought a wrist-wearable fitness item called Jawbone to track her exercise and sleep patterns.

Northwest resident Harvey Hirsch said he was there as much to learn about things as he was to give input.

“And I think so many of the technology companies gear everything for the 15- to 25-year-olds, and I think it was our generation that probably invented most of these types of technologies, but I don’t think they’re taking us into account as to what we want, how we use the devices,” he said. “Anything I can do to get that word across to say, ‘We’re not just on Facebook. We use this technology for everything it can do.’ It’s different than I think the perception of people over 60. They look at AARP members as people who need cellphones with great big buttons on them.”

Southwest resident Doug Verb called the show “sensory overload. … all the things that are on all these cellphones. You couldn’t have done this 30 years ago — Wite-Out, carbon paper, telephone calls — somebody said, ‘Can you mail that to me?’, and I went, ‘What does a stamp cost now?’ So, I like all the technology. Coming here for this, it’s like a play land, a toy land.”

Mary McClain bought a Neubac unit, which she immediately put to use. The pad presses to one’s back and transmits electrical stimulation to the body’s nerve or muscle fibers through the skin to control pain.

“It’s for back pain. It’s working great,” she said. “… I saw it, and I went, ‘Well, this is cool,’ because my back was hurting.”

She said she paid about $100 and probably saved about $50 retail. Her husband, Robert, said he was amazed at the amount of technology there was to see. He looked at Nikon camera lenses and decided to check into them further online.

“There were some things that were fascinating. Everything you could imagine was there,” he said.

He cited the refrigerators that could tell a person what it held and also help create a grocery shopping list, which is sent to a smartphone.

In the afternoon, 10 AARP members were part of a panel to judge new innovations coming to the market. The selection list included Mary Liveratti, AARP Nevada president.

Four companies gave introductions about their products and their intended uses.

Kindoma unveiled a way for grandparents to read stories with their grandchildren even though they might be hundreds of miles apart. It had a video component similar to Skype and page presentation like an ebook. It also used a shadow hand to mimic the user’s own, should they point to something on the page. The panel gave it 10 thumbs up.

Panasonic’s innovation helped those with failing memories by instantly reminding them of where they needed to be or what they needed to do at any given time. The examples included times to take medications and go play bingo. It also allowed one to share music and videos and have a video chat. The panel gave it seven thumbs up.

GreatCall Linc’s application connects family with an elderly person living alone. Using GPS technology, it allows families to see their loved one’s location at any time. It could also be used in an emergency situation by a lone dweller. The panel gave it five thumbs up.

Breezie.com’s idea was for a tablet service that allowed sharing files and photos, as well as accessing Skype and Gmail, that was “as easy as tapping on a picture,” said Jeh Kazimi, founder and CEO. It earned nine thumbs up.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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