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AARP Members Tour Cutting Edge Tech Show


The International Consumer Electronics Show, the world capital of all that's cutting edge in tech, wrapped up over the weekend in Las Vegas. The show has become gizmo central for millennial's and early adopters, and, it turns, out for older adults as well. About 50 members of the AARP's Nevada chapter spent a day touring the show. NPR's Ina Jaffe covers aging, and she tagged along.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: The intentions of the AARP members here were pretty clear. They all wore bright red T-shirts that said #disruptaging. Doug Verb was wearing one of them.

DOUG VERB: This industry should pay attention to what we're doing, and our demographic uses all of these things. You'll see everybody is on here with tablets, with Twitter, and we have just a huge amount of people interested in it.

JAFFE: And that interest goes way beyond Twitter and tablets.

BARBARA SPEAR: Start talking to everybody, I'll get everybody.


JAFFE: Barbara Spear rounded up a group of AARP members at a booth for a product called FitBark. Davide Rossi explained that the device monitors the physical activity of your dog.

ROSSI: You can review your dog's activity, understanding what kind of a day your dog's having. Is this a typical day or is my dog very lethargic today?

JAFFE: And no, it's not available for cats. Some of the AARP members were unimpressed. They know their dogs sleep most of the time, but Mark Ellington could see how FitBark might come in handy for people his age.

MARK ELLINGTON: It's a great way to get you started, like walking or doing things. I'm thinking already in my recovery with heart surgery that would be - it would have been perfect.

JAFFE: And where would Ellington have tracked all this data about his dog? On a smartphone, says member Janice Alpern, of course.

JANICE ALPERN: Whatever you do, it's an app and a phone.

JAFFE: In fact, this particular convention hall that focused on health and lifestyle products would have been nearly empty if it weren't for smartphones. Tracking your pet's activity level, or your own, or watching who's coming into your house or tracking your weight and blood pressure or analyzing the ingredients in your food or adjusting your hearing aid or learning relaxation techniques or remembering whether you took your pills - it all ends up on your phone.

MARY LIVERATTI: Some of these devices give us a lot of data.

JAFFE: Says AARP Nevada state president, Mary Liveratti.

LIVERATTI: It's, like, what do you do with the data once you get it?

JAFFE: Maybe important things, says AARP member Mark Holzhauer, especially if it's medical data.

MARK HOLZHAUER: If I go out of town and I'm hurt, the doctors can look at the computer and pull up all my medical records, know what medications I'm on, etcetera, make it available with a secure password so that the medical providers can treat me properly.

JAFFE: But most of the members were more interested in having fun than planning for medical emergencies or digitally tracking their every breath. Actually, if anyone was stereotyping AARP members, it may have been the AARP. Member Mary Ellen Burton says she was interested in seeing a lot more than the health and lifestyle products on their tour schedule.

MARY ELLEN BURTON: I want to see 3-D printing and I want to see the new TV technology - the curved TVs. There's also a washer in here that looks like it also does your ironing. I mean, there's just so many things 'cause I'm a gadget person, so it's like - this is adult candy for me.

JAFFE: This stuff isn't just for kids, she says.

BURTON: Because kids can't afford this stuff. It's the older people that buy it for the kids.

JAFFE: So be nice to grandma, everybody, cool gadgets could be coming your way. Ina Jaffe, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."