Spotlight on Samsung and Consumer Cellular

Quietly, the evolution to a variety of services and products that meet the needs of older population are taking hold.

This month, I met with CEO John Marick of Consumer Cellular, a mobile carrier with a unique point of view. They may not be in the same league as AT&T or Verizon, but then again, that’s not what they’re after. “We tailor our service to people who don’t use their cell phones all that much,” said John,“ and that is a surprisingly large slice.” Marick goes on to add that many people who have only moderate cell phone usage are often looking at “the other side of fifty.” Consumer Cellular requires no contract commitment, they have no surprise fees, and they offer a nice selection of mid-range mobile phones; plus they give you the flexibility to change your plan as your needs vary. The company was visiting New York to announce that they now have over one million customers.

Samsung, while not overtly targeting the older population, has done a few things that serve them remarkably well. First, Samsung has led the charge towards larger screen size, and most boomers I know say a larger screen makes it easier to read your email without eyestrain. Second, Samsung is starting to create a platform for digital health and wellness. The recently announced Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone has add-on sensors that can monitor calories, heart rate, and more. It’ll be part of a Samsung S Band offering that will include a wrist band similar to the FitBit or Basis bands, where the wrist band transfers data to the phone. CNET has a quick preview of the S Band and related products. Other helpful boomer features on the S4 smartphone include eye-tracking that lets you scroll up and down just by looking at your phone. Could be the first phone to do a Bogie impression, “Here’s looking at you kid.”

Spotlight on Seniors

We all know that today’s seniors are living longer, richer lives. The internet and Facebook aren’t just for kids. There can be frustrations in using technology for all, but especially for seniors. The Older Adults Technology Services organization, known as OATS, is working to improve the quality of life for older adults, including building state of the art technology labs for seniors. This work is partly supported by our partners at the CEA Foundation, and has now resulted in 19 finished technology centers. Go to for more information.

Ageism is no laughing matter, but apparently Discover Magazine feels it’s hard to study without rolling on the floor, laughing (ROFL). In their blog, they reference a study published in an Oxford University Press journal, the Gerontologist, that looks at 84 Facebook groups that concentrate on older individuals, and concluded that all but one contained negative stereotypes. For Discover Magazine’s dismissal of ageism in Facebook, see here.

One institution that’s clearly aging in place is network television news. Just look at the commercials. NBC anchor Brian Williams can’t claim to be part of the Millennial Generation, but even a TV anchor can be a nerd, with a list of favorite smartphone apps. Read more in this tech-oriented interview conducted by Jefferson Graham of USA TODAY.

We all know that boomers invented sex, right? Well, maybe not. But we do know, correctly, that sex is big business on the web. Most of it is, well, just porn. For another approach, check out Cindy Gallop who has created a web site called She recently headlined a SXSW session on the Future of Porn, covered by Edward C. Baig of USA Today. The idea of her site is to present real adults doing what they do in private. See Ed’s article for the details.

If you want to maintain your presence in social media after you die, planning is the key. For most of us, our death in the real world shuts down our social media presence in the virtual world. But it needn’t be so. With some effort, you can keep on tweeting and posting and curmudgeoning long after you’re gone. Heather Kelly of CNN explains How to Post to Facebook, Twitter after You Die.

Those who see life as something finite may react differently.  Actress Valerie Harper (Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda) recently received a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, and she’s being remarkably open and upbeat. Mary Elizabeth Williams’ article on Ms. Harper in Salon presents a remarkable portrait of an individual facing the inevitable. (Photo Credit: Reuters/Sam Mircovich)

Is your retirement going to be “On Golden Pond,” or “On Thin Ice”? New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse examines the new complexities in “Pushing Back Retirement, and Not Always for Money.”


Product News

Boomers aren’t adopting smart phones quite as quickly as younger demographics, but smartphones do have a lot to offer. Robin Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times and frequent Mashable contributor, looks at a group of smartphone apps that are of special interest to silvers.

Finder of Lost Things: Not that young people don’t lose things — they probably lose more, but fret about them less. For boomers who hate misplacing anythings, there are a few great products reviewed in the New York Times by Farad Manjoo.

With gardening season in the air, it’s a good idea to think about a few high tech tools, too. The Easy Bloom Plant Sensor, the Water Stick, and Koubachi are all high tech plant sensors that notify you when your plants and vegetables have needs.