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How to Help People Fight Loneliness

If we think about common causes of mortality, a few things come to mind. Obesity, definitely; cancer; heart disease; guns and wars. However, you probably don’t immediately put loneliness on that list—but you should. According to experts – most recently, at Brigham Young University – loneliness is an epidemic that could potentially be as risky as obesity or substance abuse. Millennials in particular are dubbed “The Loneliness Generation”, but loneliness could affect anyone—including seniors. According to recent studies, 43 percent of seniors reporting feeling lonely on a daily basis.

A recent 2020 survey made by the community Sixty+Me indicates that the number might be even higher – especially in light of the covid19 pandemic, which has led people to become more isolated. Among Sixty+Me’s survey participants and entire 87% reports that they sometimes or often feel lonely. When they did the same survey in 2019 “only” 75% reported that they felt lonely.

One of the primary reasons for feeling lonely among the Sixty+Me community is the lack of a spouse/partner along with living alone, not having many friends and not having contact with family members.

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Our Top 8 Must-Have Apps for Seniors

These days, there’s an app for pretty much anything. Wanna find out what that cool-looking plant you passed on your walk in the park is? There’s an app for that. Wanna see what kind of meal you can make with the random stuff you have left in your fridge? There’s an app for that, too. According to statistics, over 1000 apps get released through the App Store each day, crossing ranges of interests and demographics—which means really, really useful apps specifically for seniors are out there more than ever.

Apps targeting seniors generally focus on improving their health and alleviating symptoms of illnesses—but it’s not all sadness and sickness in the app world, either. There are apps for catching up on what’s going on in the world, chatting with your granddaughter, getting out and about in your community—and all are senior-specific. To make it a bit easier for you to navigate the big, ever-expansive world of apps out there, we’ve compiled a list of our Top 8. Enjoy.

If you’ve got an avid audiobook fan in your family, this app will be a game changer for them. With over 180, 000 audiobooks of stories, novels, essays, radio shows and podcasts to listen to, the possibilities are literally endless—all at the decent price of $14.95 US per month, if you want to have unlimited access to audiobooks. Otherwise, you can get it for free, but you’ll have to pay per audiobook you download.

Bonus: the app also allows you to control its brightness and set timers on your audiobooks. So if you feel like falling asleep to a fascinating story or timing your audiobook for your walk to the grocery store, you can do that with the push of a button thanks to Audible.

Image via Lumosity

Lumosity is your key to keeping your brain perked and alert. An app with a simple-to-use and minimal interface, it creates customized brain-stimulating programs based on a quick survey defining your habits you submit upon signing up. The cognitive games, focusing on patterns and shapes, are designed by Lumosity’s in-house scientists and teams of researchers—so they’re made to stimulate your brain in ways with long-term benefits. Although Lumosity got in a bit of trouble earlier this year by overstating the benefits their app provides users, simple problem-solving apps are proven to strengthen your brain—as long as you use them on a daily basis.

Image via WIRED

Words With Friends is basically like Scrabble—but the interface is much more fun and colourful, and you have much more flexibility with how you play. You can play by yourself, or get your family members involved in ongoing games; you can participate in weekly challenges the app designs for you; you can switch languages; and you can even be paired with a stranger around you who plays at the same level as you do. So for all those wordsmiths out there – or even those who want to feel closer to their family and friends abroad – this handy little game will do the trick.

Fade: Fall Detector

Screenshot via YouTube

Everyone falls every once in awhile. It’s no biggie—depending on the person, that is. For many seniors, even a simple fall can lead to an array of icky health problems and worrisome aftereffects. However, if someone falls and gets help as soon as possible, it makes the outcome of the tumble a whole lot better—which is where Fade: Fall Detector comes in. An app built for Android, it detects your movement throughout your day; if it senses that you fall, it will contact the relative you identified as your emergency contact and send them your GPS information and time of fall. It’s simple, it’s effective—and a great way to make an accident a lot less stressful.

You know those cute, romantic, tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants? All dimly lit and mysterious, with a lone candle illuminating the handwritten menu your waiter gives you? Oh, those places are lovely—but they sure aren’t that easy to actually read the menu in. That’s where EyeReader comes in: it’s an app that acts as a magnifying glass, using the LED light of the phone to at once illuminate and magnify whatever’s in front of you. You can zoom to your preference with your fingers on the screen and can even simply take photos by tapping your screen twice and clicking ‘save’. The concept is simple, alright—but a lifesaver in everyday situations for people whose eyes don’t work perfectly, especially in dark situations. It also links with your Apple Watch if you have one, so you can read whatever you need on your wrist if you prefer it.

Image via TechNews World

This app designed for iPads is the closest you can get to having a physiotherapist beside you at all times. Created by an American physiotherapist, it aims to help people avoid or identify motion injuries—and also functions as something physiotherapists can give their patients to let them take in-office learnings to their homes. Motion Doctor uses a combination of video and text to describe routines for strengthening and stretching your body while giving you the basic rationale behind each exercise as well as an overview of human anatomy. The app contains over 60 videos, and they come pre-downloaded on the app—so you don’t need an internet connection to see them. On top of that, the videos are sorted by activity, sport and profession and let you customize your routines; you can get really nitty gritty with this, if you feel like it. At $15 USD, this app is pricy—but considering how much information and help it packs in, we feel it’s worth a download.

Image via Pillboxie

For those of us who need to take a cocktail of pills on a daily basis, keeping track of it all can be a daunting task—which is why Pillboxie is such a simple yet necessary tool. Pillboxie is an app that lets you visually manage your meds: to schedule a reminder, you drop a render of a pill into a pillbox. Then, the app will send out reminders based on the information you put in—even if you’re sleeping or have your device on airplane mode. As you take your meds, you can check them off one by one, plus customize how it all looks with a range of shapes and colours. You don’t need wifi for this app, either—making Pillboxie a pretty much foolproof way of remembering to take your pills, no matter how many you have to. Plus, it’s designed and developed by a nurse—so you know it’s legit.

Image via Skype

Out of all the communication apps out there, Skype remains the best one. With a simple and easy to understand interface and a lot less lag time than other apps, Skype lets you take your friends and family with you wherever you go. Plus, you can share photos or links while in conversation with the simple tap of a button—and can always call someone’s landline if you prefer. Finally, Skype lets you fluidly switch from one-on-one conversation to a group chat thanks to an easy group conversation extension you can download alongside the app. Despite the many competitors out there, Skype is still leading the pack.

 

Our Top 8 Design Objects Changing Seniors’ Lives

When you think of products designed for seniors, what comes to mind? Most likely, you think of things that are grey, hospital-like and clunky—depressing stuff with seemingly minimal aesthetic consideration. That’s because product design for seniors had a bad rep for many years: up until recently, it was hard to learn about products made for seniors that didn’t fit under that cold and clammy aesthetic. Thankfully, the past few years have seen a boom in startups focusing on product innovation collide with a cultural interest in breaking the stereotypes around aging and what it means to be ‘old’. As a result, clunky and cold objects for seniors are becoming a thing of the past—making room for objects and tools that are fun, easy to use, aesthetically appealing and smartly designed.

To give you a quick overview of the range of innovative designs for seniors that are out there, we’ve compiled a list of our Top 8.

Exercising in water sounds great and all—but it can get a bit tiring, even for the fittest of folks. Luckily, innovation house IDEO’s Munich office came up with a solution called Sväv. Upon first glance, it’s a stylish and timeless swimsuit—but look closer, and it’s a powerhouse of support for all shapes and sizes. Sväv has pneumatic features fluidly integrated into the design: as you swim, they fill with air—so no matter what you’re doing in the water, you get lightness, lift and fashion points, too.

For people with dementia, appetite loss and dramatic weight loss are an unfortunate reality—and one that makes the disease much harder to keep under control. However, Ode is here to the rescue: it’s a subtle tool you can put in your home to regularly release appetite-stimulating fragrances—and according to Ode, it’s quite effective. Upon testing the product’s impact on 50 people living with dementia, their team found that 50% of the participants gained weight of an average of 2 kg over eleven weeks. It’s simple to install, too: simply plug it into an outlet and set the timer to release fragrances for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Image via WIRED

Much like us, the company behind Sabi Space was sick and tired of seeing products designed for seniors that screamed ‘old’ and ‘boring’. Enter Sabi Space: a collection of 13 bathroom accessories that primarily cater to aging people, yet could just as easily make their way into the homes of trendy millennials. The whole collection is based around pegs which you can mix and match for your comfort and visual taste: whether you want to install one of the Sabi Space towel racks, aluminum bathroom bars or mirrors, these pegs will let you do so without screws and without a struggle. The packaging has a true-to-size render of the product plus straightforward installation instructions, so you don’t have to give yourself a headache figuring out how to make these things work. Just don’t be surprised if your kids or grandkids want the same set in their bathrooms after seeing yours. It’s that stylish.

Image via ebay

The best thing about this product is you don’t have to have sore hands or muscles to relate to the problem it solves: almost everybody knows what it’s like to walk out of the grocery store after a particularly large shop, only to have to suffer through your walk home as you try to ignore the pain and discomfort caused by heavy grocery bags digging into your hands. The OneTrip Grocery Holder eliminates that problem for good: it’s basically a minimalistic, colourful hook you strap your grocery bags into. You can pick from a range of colours—and since they sell at $2.50 USD a pop, you can stock up on these lifesavers.

On first glance, this watch is, well, a functional-looking and unfussy watch. However, it holds far more power than that: Minneapolis-based startup Reemo developed it with seniors and their everyday needs in mind. So, this watch can let you control your lighting, thermostat or locks; receive reminders and alerts; contact your friends and family with a quick tap; and ask for help or assistance through a simple button whenever you need it. Now, we’re just waiting ‘til this thing hits the market!

Image via IDEO

No, we’re not talking about the big, wide-eyed bird kind of owl. OWL is an acronym for On the Wisdom of Life—which accurately represents the point of IDEO’s ‘elegant thought time capsule’. It’s basically a minimal and stylish shelf that would compliment any apartment—but it holds 80 glass tubes meant to represent 80 years of your life. Each year, you write down a reflection on the past year and a hope for the coming year and put it one of the vessels. The tubes that live at the top symbolize the wisdom you’ve earned, while the ones at the bottom symbolize potential for the future.

Image via IDEO

Another IDEO marvel – this time for the Shanghai office – Pit Stop Posts is a line of street furniture designed to help seniors and those who are slower in pace find a place to rest in busy urban areas. They look like minimal walking sticks placed strategically on the street—but really, they’re effective resting posts that can help you hang your shopping bags, lean on something sturdy or help you navigate public transportation.

Image via DesignBoom

You know that friend you have who just ‘gets’ you? Well, that’s what Omhu is to us. The NYC-based company’s “Aids for Daily Living” collection of objects is inspired by Scandinavian design, the fun yet stylish aesthetic of bicycles and a mentality very much like ours: just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to lose out on your personality. In particular, their ‘Omhu’ cane is a take on the traditional cane that turns it into a modern-looking and useful accessory. These canes are recyclable, designed with easy-to-grip handles, made of lightweight aluminum—and keep you lookin’ like the stylish kid on the block. Oh, and Omhu means ‘with great care’ in Danish—so yeah, this company’s pretty close to us at heart!

 

How Fashion Brands Are Redefining ‘Old’

Joan Didion for Celine

Over the past few years, older women have continued to pop up on the fashion world’s radar. We’ve seen French fashion house Celine cast American writing legend Joan Didion as the face of their campaign; Dame Helen Mirren as a primary ambassador for L’Oreal; Joni Mitchell as the driving force of Saint Laurent; Charlotte Rampling as the face of Nars. This trend of ditching blank-faced 20-somethings for women with stories and wisdom continues to be growing—and it’s not only fashion brands at the helm. On social media, the blog Advanced Style – featuring street-style photos of older men and women in New York with some sort of chutzpah about them – has over 300,000 views per month, its popularity spurring the much-loved documentary Advanced Style. Instagram accounts like Fashion Grandpas (stylish older men) and Oldushka (Russian seniors in Moscow) have thousands and thousands of followers. Cult style magazines like The Gentlewoman are putting older women on the cover, and magazine editors like Justine Picardie from Harper’s Bazaar happily admit that most of the stories they feature are about older people, not younger.

Of course, a lot of this comes back down to cold, hard finances. Fashion brands are well aware that people over 60 make up the fastest growing group of consumers in many countries: in the UK, example, 79% of disposable wealth in the UK is in the hands of people over 50. It makes sense that brands want to leverage that knowledge by showing their consumers people they’re more likely to relate to over yet another fresh-faced young thing. Even so, this financial motivation does lead to a positive outcome: it reflects and continues to impact a growing cultural shift around physical and lifestyle ideals. As The Observer writes, millennials as well as other generations want more than beautiful people to look at: they want people whose identities reflect stories, wisdom and confidence—and in many cases, the natural representations of those values are people who have lived longer lives and accumulated more knowledge on the way. So although Celine casting Joan Didion does exploit the shock value of portraying age in a traditionally youth-obsessed culture to be ‘edgy’, it also uses Didion’s personal history and reputation to equate brains and experience with beauty and desirability.

The Oldushka Project

Admittedly, there is something fishy about the rapidness of it all. It’s not as if we’ve seen a slow increase in the use of older men and women as the driving forces of brand campaigns: the majority of it happened in the last four years, seemingly one brand after the other. Although this makes it tempting to look at the sudden presence of older women in fashion and media as a vapid trend using shock value to sell things, it may also simply be a natural evolution of things. As Justine Picardie, EIC of Harper’s Bazaar, says, “the pendulum does sometimes swing – You look at the 1950s when they liked that very sophisticated, elegant, grown-up looking woman. And then there was the youth-quake of the 60s, when youth was fetishised. One shouldn’t over-simplify and say this is the first time we’ve ever had an industry where older women have been remarked upon … maybe we’re just seeing a natural shift.”

If we’re to side with Picardie on this one, it’s useful to look at the growing presence of older women in fashion in combination with other phenomenons. An accessible discussion around feminism is growing; the fashion industry is being forced to address and regulating unhealthy body standards; women are gaining more recognition and power to take over key global roles (if Hillary Clinton becomes president, for example, three of the world’s most influential countries will be run by women). All of this means that both younger and older women are cluing in to new standards of empowerment for themselves—a part of which is feeling confident, no matter what age you’re at. As 53 year old Rosie Arnold, deputy ECD at Advertising Agency BBH London, says, “What most people have failed to realise is it’s a fascinating time of our lives as a woman…. You are more solvent, more confident, and have – please God – your health. I’m aware that the kids have left home, and I’ve got money, I’ve got confidence…. I’ve actually got more time on my hands, or more money, and there isn’t a brand out there saying ‘this is cool’ or ‘you can have this’.”

Joni Mitchell for Yves Saint Laurent

So although the fashion world’s sudden fascination with older women is far from perfect – not everyone can be a cultural figure like Joan Didion, or have aged as gracefully as Dame Helen Mirren – we prefer to see it for its positives over its negatives. By continuously elevating the roles of older women in their campaigns, these brands are also elevating the roles of older women in overall culture. Every time a brand or magazine features an older women as its face or cover, the shock value of ‘age’ pushing ‘youth’ to the side slowly disappears. Instead, it’s slowly but surely replaced by a genuine comfort with seeing older women in roles of cultural importance—a comfort that trickles down to consumers of all genders and ages. So, as we like to say: Age is the New Black. Get with it.