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back to article Phones for the elderly: Testers wanted for senior service

As if getting a business idea from Reg reader comments wasn’t enough for Simon Rockman he now wants help to get it working. Some time ago I wrote a review of mobile phones for Seniors for The Reg. I’ve often said that the quality of the readers’ comments is one of the things that makes this publication special. I’d been …

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Anonymous Coward

What a dumb idea. Seriously dumb, not to mention insulting to your target market.

Being a senior citizen doesn't mean you suddenly become dumb as a brick, what it is likely to mean is impared eye-sight and/or hearing.

The main problem with mobile phones (and this from the experience of my 87yo Father) is that the buttons and screen text are too small. All that's needed is a phone with large buttons (so it can be clearly seen which button is being pressed), the numbers on the screen nice and large and a decent speaker so someone with less than perfect hearing can understand the person on the other end.

As to knowing which number to dial? On his land-line speed dial has been setup for each of his regular contacts with an insert listing them. Absolutely no reason why this couldn't also be done on a mobile phone.

He doesn't need all the stuff your average smart phone does, so a simplified user interface with the emphasis being on making phone calls (which most people seem to forget is what the damn thing is for anyway).

Some things do not need a complex solution. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

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Pirate

No, what becoming old meant for your father was reduced eyesight. What becoming old meant for my Grandmother was gibbering insanity and a fear of the History channel because she confused it with news coverage of Hitler, but her eyesight was great. To assume that your father had a monopoly on the side effects of becoming old is asinine and extremely selfish and unbelievably short sighted.

If an old people mobile service as described makes the twilight years of seniors a better experience It is a good thing. I'm going to be old one day and I like to think the world had not forgotten me & all the other olds when (if) I get there.

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>What a dumb idea. Seriously dumb, not to mention insulting to your target market.

By definition, his target market don't read The Register. A significant percentage of our older population have never been on-line- something that has implications for government services and ultility companies that only offer their best rates to on-line customers.

>Being a senior citizen doesn't mean you suddenly become dumb as a brick, what it is likely to mean is impared eye-sight and/or hearing.

Ageing affects people differently. Most people will suffer poorer eyesight at some point - and for those, a conventional flip-phone with large buttons will be the good solution, or perhaps one of the phones designed for the elderly market

However, some of us might develop chronic arthritis, or perhaps one of the many forms of Alzheimer's, to one degree or another. Many studies suggest that if people with Alzheimer's are surrounded by the trappings of their youth - interior decor, music etc* - they are happier and less likely to be confused, so replicating the familiar 'Hello operator, please connect me to...' experience of their youth is a good idea.

*There is a elderly care home /community in Holland, I believe, with an entire street set out as it might have been several decades ago. The shops are real, but with products and layouts reminiscent of the 1950s, and is used by members of the public and not just residents. Should a resident have a funny five minues and wander out of a shop without paying it is no problem, the shop keeper just makes a friendly phone call to a carer.

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Coat

"impared eye-sight" I will agree on that. I have an "old" Nokia and I use the alarm for waking me up. But for some stupid reason the text is so damned tiny, without any reasons, I need to put on my glasses to read it. Stupid. As far as dumb ideas I will not agree. There are always people, old or young, who need and will benefit from something the rest of us do not need, yet, perhaps.

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It's not compulsory

It's an excellent idea for SOME people - and for those people it could be a godsend. Not just SOME elderly people, but others who, for one reason or another, can't make full use of a conventional phone. Perhaps quadraplegics who can just about manage to press one button to activate a phone? Or young children who get lost perhaps? ("I want to talk to my mummy!") - I'm sure we could come up with a long list and, if the price isn't too high, I'm sure the real world may well come up with many people who can make use of the service (just not your 87yo father - well, not yet at least)

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Anonymous Coward

Thank you

Thank for expressing the thoughts I had wrt the original AC's post, but in a much more polite way.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01kbm0g

The BBC's You and Yours programme (link above) had some coverage of the "dementia village" I guess you mean (it's called Hogewey), in July last year. You can hear just that segment again (13 minutes) at

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00vs1j1

Spectacularly worth a listen, especially if you or anyone important to you is ever likely to get old and be at risk of dementia. There's plenty of other coverage elsewhere.

And to Mr Rockman: good luck. I don't need this (yet), and the folks I did know that might have benefited are no longer around. But who knows what tomorrow brings for any of us.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't see what's much simpler for the end user than providing an old-fashioned operator.

As voice control goes, it knocks SIRI into the proverbial.....

And Doro are simplified phones.

(not so old but still old enough to remember party-lines and the clickety-clack of the exchanges in response to the pulses of the rotary dial)

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Coffee/keyboard

... Many studies suggest that if people with Alzheimer's are surrounded by the trappings of their youth - interior decor, music etc* - they are happier and less likely to be confused, so replicating the familiar 'Hello operator, please connect me to...' experience of their youth is a good idea.

*There is a elderly care home /community in Holland, I believe, with an entire street set out as it might have been several decades ago. The shops are real, but with products and layouts reminiscent of the 1950s,..

So, when we're old, we'll be provided with cramped apartments strewn with empty beer-cans and X-Boxes....?

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Re: It's not compulsory

It's an excellent idea for SOME people . . .

I think you nailed it. This is not a matter of "ageism", but that people have different needs as they get older. There's lots of old folk out here who are quite capable of figuring out digital devices, some of them may even have invented some. Others lose certain selective faculties that makes this phone a real help.

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PJI
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Re: It's not compulsory

This is a good idea for lots of people. Even people who do not normally need such a system could find it rather useful if suffering from illness or injury making fiddly dialling or remembering how to use the thing awkward or worse. Actually, many "busy" people would be delighted to just pick up the 'phone, say, "Please put me on to Mr. Xyz" and continue with something else while the operator gets on with it.

Presumably, such an operator would also take messages or read them out when asked (voice mail seems to defeat an awful lot of people).

I often wonder if the demise of the group secretary or typist is not a mistake, with well-paid engineers or managers spending hours mistyping documents and letters, making a mess of booking travel and doing everything except the job for which they were employed, while doing the admin and typing badly. Same principal.

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Re: It's not compulsory

@PJI - Such services exist... virtual PA services do precisely that.

Oh, and it's principle. Just sayin'. ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Not dumb

We bought my dad a mobile, weeks later he said it was useless, it never rang. I had a look, the battery was flat, I asked him when he had last charged it..... 'What do you mean I have to charge it', he said.

For some elderly people, a simple device is ideal.

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Older means wiser, blinder and less distracted by "cool"

At 51, I'm an older techie. My eyes are not what they used to be. Nor is my patience for shiny faddish crap like twitter, facebook etc.

I have an Android. It has some useful features like the maps. And a real keyboard for sending texts when I need to (I can even use real words and grammar).

I often find myself wanting to steal my wife's dumb-as-a-rock phone which has HUGE buttons - easy to read without my glasses on and absolutely no shiny features.

I don't care about "cool" . It is pointless. I've seen so much cool stuff through the years (first man on the moon, Walkman, CDs, Segway scooters,...). Some of it was really amazing, some was just faddish crap. I fail to find "cool" amazing any more. Unless it has a real useful purpose I'm not bothered.

[Oh, in case you think I am a Luddite, I write OS software and have done a lot of electronic design].

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Visual and dexterous imparement (e.g. post-stroke) are common in older generations. This proposal may not meet everyone's needs, but it will help a good number, and that's a plus for them. And it is simple, stupid.

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"What a dumb idea. Seriously dumb, not to mention insulting to your target market."

My mother is 80 and has never managed to successfully use her mobile phone, the technology confuses her just by "being" and her arthritis makes it next to impossible to use a tiny handset, and she has speed dial but she's never going to remember which one is which. The one phone she can use is about the size of a 10 inch tablet, she's hardly going to slip that in her handbag! She can, however, press one button and ask for someone to do it for her, because like a lot of older people she prefers the comfort of a human voice to coldly mashing a keyboard with no help. This product isn't aimed at seniors who are perfectly happy using a phone, it's aimed at people who are not. Your comment is as retarded as saying "This phone is no use for blue whales", the target market is those who struggle, calling it stupid because it doesn't help those who don't struggle is about as stupid as you can possibly be, not to mention incredibly insulting to the phone's ACTUAL target market by dismissing them as if they don't exist just because you evidently think every senior person in the world is a carbon copy of your granddaddy.

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Anonymous Coward

>What a dumb idea. Seriously dumb, not to mention insulting to your target market.

Is this a troll?

The target market that would be insulted is not the target market.

The target market may not be enormous but it exists and consists of those elderly folk who need this level of service.

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I might be in trouble. My wife just turned 60. She's a bit of a technophobe and had been grumbling about her mobile phone: text too small, wanted one she can easily use as a camera, prefers clamshell designs with a neck-cord, doesn't give a toss about smart-phones and apps, wants a phone to make phone calls and occasional texts (proper big clear buttons please - not on-screen buttons).

I got her a Doro phone, so far I've managed to obfuscate the fact that Doro's target market is the elderly but now her friends all want the same. Someone's sure to let the cat out of the bag.

Wish me luck.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not dumb

Buy a Doro phone, one of it's features is a dock that handles battery charging so you can tell him it's like a conventional phone: put the reciever back on the cradle when it's not in use.

Then point out that it is a bit smarter that the normal domestic phone. It will work away from the house but needs to go back in the cradle when you get home.

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A human operator is hard to beat

The last time I phoned a number with a human operator was some time in the 19802, phoning a person in a small village. The operator controlled phone exchange was in the small store on the main (well only) street - the road through the village.

The call went something like this:

"Hello Foobar Exchange"

"Hello, could you please connect me with 883".

"Do you want to speak with Judy?"

"Yes"

"Well she's out at the moment. She normally pops around to Jenny for tea this time of day, Hang on..."

Backgtound sound of ringing:

"Hello Jenny, is Jane there? Good. I have someone who wants to speak with her."

Beat that Siri!

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....and on the winge; Eadon...

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Best dumb phone

Nokia 105

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Re: Best dumb phone

Interesting maybe I will get one still using a Nokia 6230i for calls and texts getting a bit old now. (As in needs parts changing really but I don't trust the scum on ebay to sell genuine).

35 days standby looks like just what I need thanks.

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Re: Best dumb phone

Nokia 5185. Mine's over a decade old, and still works like new. Even in Sonoma County's so-called "dead zones".

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I think this is a great idea

My mother recently had a fall and broke her hip. She wasn't close to her landline and it took her 3 hours to crawl to the phone to call for help!

A Mobile may have helped in this case and I'm all for it.

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Re: I think this is a great idea

Just because she had one. (Prior to an event like this). Wouldn't necessarily mean that it was on her person or any easier to get to.

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Re: I think this is a great idea

@Mr_Pitiful

Get onto social services (assuming you are in UK). There are neck cord based pagers with one button that when pressed will have care worker/paramedic in attendance in 10 minutes or so. Reassuring for all concerned.

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Unhappy

Re: Neck cord pagers

Yeah, they're great, if, unlike my mother, the person actually wears the damn thing around their neck.

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Re: I think this is a great idea

Pager with only one function, like the emergency phone to keep in the glove box, is a waste of time for most people as because they don't use it they forget to carry it. However, combine this function with something useful and you'll find that the person will carry it about with them - hence why mobile phones took off.

Fuss Free phones looks interesting, because provided they have got the on-boarding sorted, a person will be able to call the operator and have them place that emergency call, whilst the operator stays on the line to provide necessary re-assurance and notify others that need to know.

I've signed up several relatives, from those that can't hold a mobile phone far enough away so that they can read it to those who find using the phone's in-built addressbook difficult.

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I am 80 years old - my Doro PhoneEasy 338gsm can receive text messages but not send them.

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WTF?

Una palabra

One word: iPhone

Congenially yours

Ian (69½)

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Stupid Idea

My father is in his eighties. My mother well into her seventies. Neither are geeks - and both love their iPhones. Why? Because the iPhone (and Android, and Windows phone - smartphones in general) are enabling devices, and neither of my parents are thick.

Surely the service being discussed here is merely one for dribbling imbeciles?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stupid Idea

"Surely the service being discussed here is merely one for dribbling imbeciles?"

iPhone users ...exactly

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This is ALMOST a solution looking for a problem.

Yes, there is a limited group of people that might find this service comforting but they will be in their 90s now. I'm not sure when the last manual exchange closed but I don't think there will be many people that are used to calling the operator. The last time I did that was in the late 50s in a remote area of NSW where my wife worked in the local exchange.

Many of the people I know in their 80s and 90s are using smartphones with front facing cameras to keep in touch with their children and grand children and in one case great grand children. For them what is needed is a reliable emergency response team at the end of a speed dial number.

The other problem I can foresee is one of coverage - is this going to be a service limited to areas of good coverage or is it supposed to be universal?

I am trying to see past my negativity about this and look at its potential usefulness but I find it hard and I'm up in the age group it is supposed to be for.

The beta trial might help to iron out problems but the last question is how is the cost to be covered if the service goes live - those living on OAP don't have any spare money to splash out.

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being an MVNO, the coverage would depend solely on the big network it's piggybacking onto. Most of the major networks in the UK now have pretty good coverage, at least for telephone purposes, but yes, I agree you'd want to check into that first.

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Anonymous Coward

I know one person in her 80's, and with the early stages of Alzheimer's, for whom this would be ideal (not to mention a boon for her friends and children). My Mum, in her late 70's and still with her accustomed complement of marbles, was given an iPhone hand-me-down, and is managing well with it so far. She would be offended if offered a phone service as described. This is definitely a service with potential customers, but describing it as being "for seniors" would not be good marketing.

AFAIK the last UK manual exchange closed in the early 1980's, and I (I'm only in my 50s) still remember using them in Ireland.

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Anonymous Coward

There's no harm making mobile easier to use, voice control is one element, another is charging, my mother seldom carries her mobile and I think the combination of wireless charging mat and a big battery would help. Having a list of phone numbers taped to the phone also helps her. Some kind of intelligence to correct city and country codes automatically would be good too, she doesn't need someone to dial for her but often forgets the mobile doesn't 'know' where it is and she leaves off the prefix when dialling locally.

AC for my mother's privacy, as friends know my Reg nickname and my mum.

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"being an MVNO, the coverage would depend solely on the big network it's piggybacking onto"

But if said big network goes tits-up, so does every MVNO piggybacked onto it. Classic example being O2 going down, taking giff-gaff and Tesco users with it.

Most of the major networks in the UK now have pretty good coverage, at least for telephone purposes,

If the system is just designed to make phonecalls and use SMS, all they need is 2G coverage, so really the only places without coverage would be where there is zero coverage at all. Though saying that, a friend of mine on 3 lives a stone-throw away from a phone mast but gets no signal at all in her house - she has to go outside to do anything with her mobile... aside from using it as a paperweight.

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Anonymous Coward

"I think the combination of wireless charging mat and a big battery would help."

That reminds me of another OAP feature of my Doro 610. It has a charging stand to avoid fiddling with the tiny USB connector

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Re charging

Good point - I'm in my thirties and I find microUSB connectors a bit of a faff. I know that they are D shaped, but still I need to look closely to work out which way I need to plug them in.

MicroUSB requires both good eyesight and digital (as in fingers) dexterity. I haven't used the iPhone 'Lightening' connector, but it would appear to be a better design than microUSB - unidirectional, and rounded edges (unlike the sharp edges of stamped metal found on USB)

Purely for charging, an old 'Nokia charger' plug is nice and easy to insert. I haven't used any wireless charging solution, but assume that it would be a good feature for this market.

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@AC 26May 10:41 - describing it as being "for seniors" would not be good marketing.

I came to the same conclusion, a phone service that is manned by knowledgeable operators potentially has a wider audience - remember the various adverts for the various directory services offerings, where they have expended out from straight number lookup into wider service offerings that require more from their operators.

From what I can see, the phone is still usable as a normal phone, only that the assistance/emergency button has been redefined as 'operator' - a concern I therefore have with the Doro is whether the normal functionality of the emergency key to use hands-free mode has been changed/user configurable.

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Windows

What I want....

My hearing is not good so I have difficulty in hearing my phone ringing, yes I can have it on vibrate but that means I have to have it in a close pocket. It is not always convenient to have my phone in my pocket so something that transmits to my hearing aid would be useful. Anything out there? A dual bluetooth/digital hearing aid would be just the ticket!

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Happy

Re: What I want....

Google Bluetooth hearing aid, seems its already been done?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What I want....

"Anything out there? A dual bluetooth/digital hearing aid would be just the ticket!"

Check out the Doro "Easy" range of mobiles. Larger keys, larger text, louder rings, louder speech, and Bluetooth. The manual mentions compatibilty with hearing aids. Yet still a reasonable small pocket size.

The Doro 610 I bought yesterday form a general phone shop was £39.95 - and unlocked.

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Re: What I want....

You guys are all missing the point... Yes, I can get a phone with bluetooth. Yes, they have digital hearing aid compatibility (T setting). The bluetooth hearing aid adapters are about as ascetically pleasing as a brick and require the hearing aid to be permanently set to the T setting which effectively means I am completely deaf :-(

The bluetooth hearing aids are mostly bluetooth earpieces with sound boosters which are cheap crap.

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Old ≠ Stupid and Usless

I know lots of people aged well past sixty. Probably because I'm not too far behind.

As I near my supposed Golden Years (ah for the days when pensions and even retirement were the norm, rather than today's endless slide into semi-employed poverty) I am often amazed at what marketers and fools think I need or want.

With the sole exception of my Mom (80 this year) every person I know has a mobile phone, and no-one has any significant issues using them.

Most of them also are rabid Facebook users - that's how our entire extended family keeps in touch.

My former mother-in law, also around 80, has for years traded pirated sewing machine computer embroidery patterns via e-mail with other like minded Disney fans.

No-one that I know is in a rush to move into a retirement home, and most of them are still heading out to loud rock concerts with the friends. Some while abusing certain controlled substances.

Although there are surely some people who could benefit from this dumbed down phone, the reality of most baby-boomers over sixty is that they grew up with technology, and embraced it with joy and curiosity. They've used computers at work and at home from at least the days of the original IBM PC, have upgraded at least eight or ten times, and have happily added iPods, smart phones, and other doodads to their tech arsenal.

So Mr. Simon Rockman: get your head out of your ass, and market this product to the people who actually need it, instead of making bone-headed assumptions about the 85% of older people who aren't invalids, idiots, or luddites.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Old ≠ Stupid and Usless

"ah for the days when pensions and even retirement were the norm, rather than today's endless slide into semi-employed poverty"

So, roughly 1950 - 1990 ? Not even a generation.

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Re: Old ≠ Stupid and Usless

> rabid Facebook users

Is there another sort?

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