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FAIRFAX, Va., August 20, 2007 — With the approach of National “Grandparents Day” on September 9th, George Mason University professor Andrew Carle has released a list of the best communication technologies available to help family members stay in touch with less techno savvy parents and grandparents. Carle, assistant professor and director of the Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration at Mason, is nationally and internationally known for coining the term “Nana” Technology to describe technologies that can improve quality of life for older adults. The following products, according to Carle, represent among the best current technologies for communicating with parents who live far away and/or may need additional safety or monitoring assistance. The list reflects his opinions and is not based on formal criteria.

Jitterbugâ„¢ Cell Phone by GreatCall: Designed with large buttons, bright screen and a cushioned ear rest, the Jitterbug doesn’t include ringtones, a camera, or any other sometimes confusing features for seniors. “It just makes and receives calls, and they can carry it with them for use in an emergency,” says Carle. “The design addresses the fact that cell phones keep getting smaller even as older adults’ vision and manual dexterity decrease.” Phone $147. Calling plans starting at $10/month.

Presto(SM): From Hewlett-Packard, the Presto Service converts emails and digital photos from family and friends into custom designed, color printouts sent by standard phone line to a “printing mailbox” in the grandparent’s home. Says Carle, “Boomers and their children are used to using email. This provides an ’email’ address for grandparents, while letting grandparents pick up messages like they would the mail.” HP Printing Mailbox: From $99.99. Presto Service: $9.99/month, or $99.99/year.

Celery®: Takes the Presto concept one step further by allowing grandparents to handwrite and send a fax message or photo back, which is converted by Celery staff into an email for family or friends. “This offers the benefit of two-way communication, at about the same price,” states Carle. “It just depends on the comfort level of the grandparent’s use of technology.” Celery “Ready-to-Email” Printer/Fax machine: $99.99. Service Plans: $13.98/month, or $139/year (color). $8.98/month, or $89/year (black & white).

Beamer â„¢ Videophone/Beamer TVâ„¢ Videophone: Uses a standard phone and phone line to transmit video images during a call, either to a countertop “slim” unit with 3.5″ LCD screen, or an existing television. According to Carle, “Many families and grandparents live far apart. While the frames per second speed is not as fast as a webcam, these are plug-n-play video technologies that allow family members to see — and check on each other – even if the grandparents don’t have a computer.” Beamer Videophone: $149.99. Beamer TV Videophone: $79.99.

GrandCareâ„¢: Uses the internet and the grandparent’s television to send emails, photos, reminders, schedule appointments, and provide general information such as weather and news to a customized channel. A second component includes a monitoring program by placing motion, temperature, door, and other sensors in designated locations in the grandparent’s home. The sensors can be programmed to measure specific events, such as the opening of a medicine cabinet for pills, and send email alerts to family members in cases of unusual activity. “This is what I call a whole home or integrated system,” states Carle. “It takes communication technology to the next level, but does so in an unobtrusive, user- friendly way.” GrandCare Communication System: $1,295.00. Service: $12.95/month, plus Internet access. Monitoring System available at additional cost.


Andrew Carle is a recognized expert on senior housing, care, and technology, and founding director of the Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing. His work has been featured in/on USA Today, UPI, The Washington Post, NPR Radio, Fox Morning News, Retirement Living TV, KYODO News, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and numerous related seniors industry publications and media.

About George Mason University

George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with national distinction in a range of academic fields. Enrollment is nearly 30,000, with students in 173 degree programs at campuses in Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William. This expansion is part of George Mason’s mission to further establish itself as a distributed university in which each of its campuses has a distinctive academic focus that plays a critical role in the economy of its region.

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