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User friendly

Apps remind the aging to turn off the stove

By Mark Baard
Globe Correspondent / December 27, 2010

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Assistive technology
Our knees and hips aren’t the only parts to fail as we age. Our brains can wear out, too.

Nevertheless, I expect that most of us will die with the brains we were born with, even if that’s not the case with joints.

That is why I am hopeful about cognitive orthotics, the hand-held gadgets and apps that will remind us to water our plants, shut off our stoves, and guide us home when we get lost in our planned communities.

A new Android app, Tell My Geo, is a fresh entry in this emerging category of tools, which (and I find this a bit troubling) ask us to swap privacy for freedom. The app combines the functions of a medical alert bracelet with those of a personal navigator and can help folks experiencing “senior moments’’ get back on course.

Tell My Geo (www.iconosys.com) presents the Cared-For user with several large, on-screen buttons, including one that reads, “Where Am I?’’ It brings up a map and picture of your location.

That might be all you need to get reoriented.

But if you are stuck, press either the “Send Location or “Call for Help’’ button.

The app, which costs about $10 a month per phone, sends distress signals to a designated caregiver, which might be the spouse or child of an Alzheimer’s patient, for example, or the parent of an autistic child.

Say you click on “Call for Help’’: Tell My Geo will offer the names and photos of two nearby relatives. Clicking on one automatically places a call.

You can also program Tel My Geo to send automatic location check-ins to a caregiver, as often as every 15 minutes.

The maker of Tell My Geo, Iconosys Inc., also calls the app a storehouse for medical data, which emergency workers and doctors could quickly access.

I tend to balk at apps that give my location to anyone, let alone those bearing so much personal data. But the sociologists and other aging specialists I have talked to say older Americans will be willing to make the trade-off.

Mobile phone accessories

Let your lost phone screech — for a price

Would you pay $100 to ensure your spouse or child doesn’t lose the $400 smartphone that arrived as a Christmas gift?

Zomm LLC (www.zomm.com) sells a disc-shaped Bluetooth device that hangs from a keychain.

It will screech, vibrate, and flash its lights when it senses that it is becoming separated from the mobile phone to which it has been wirelessly connected.

I am struggling to understand how the disc is not just another expensive device to haul around and, eventually, to lose.

The gadget, which comes in a few colors, does have other functions, however:

It also works as a noise-canceling speaker phone.

Last month, Zomm released a firmware update to improve the quality of speaker-phone calls.

And like other gadgets, the Zomm disc has a panic button.

It can sound a 40-decibel alarm and place an emergency call should the need arise.