Make smartphones easier for older people with Middletown man's app (2024)

Make smartphones easier for older people with Middletown man's app (1)

MIDDLETOWN - After his mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease some 15 years ago, Saeed Saatchi and his sister, Soodie, were quickly stretched thin.

Saatchi, a telecommunications engineer, was helping raise two teen daughters and traveled frequently for his job. Soodie took on the primary responsibility of caring for their mother, even though she, too, had a full-time job.

"It was very difficult for us," Saatchi, now 64, said. "When I retired, I was thinking about this: How can we help people … who are in the same situation I was 15 years ago, and give them a tool so they can use it to take care of their aging loved ones?"

Saatchi has developed SimpliTend, an app that simplifies smartphones for seniors living with dementia and their caregivers. The technology includes features designed to help seniors stay on top of their medication and doctors' appointments; weed out unnecessary phone calls; and keep track of their location. The app is free for seniors and $5.95 a month for caregivers.

Make smartphones easier for older people with Middletown man's app (2)

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SimpliTend is hitting the market as the health care industry struggles to find enough manpower to keep up with the rapidly aging population. The Alzheimer's Association estimates the number of Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer's, a type of dementia, is expected to rise from 6.9 million to 12.7 million by 2050, barring a cure.

Providers see hope in technology, from virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri and Hey Google, to wearables that can track location and medical data, to help seniors age at home instead of long-term care facilities. But there is plenty of room for innovation.

"We're at the early stages for a lot of this technology and its applications in dementia care, but I see wide horizons with it," said Dr. Jasdeep Hundel, director of The Center for Memory & Healthy Aging at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. "There's a lot of utility here. Basically, the way I frame it for my patients is that you have a personal assistant in your pocket, (you) might as well use it."

Saatchi lives in Middletown with his wife, Donna. They have two adult daughters, Olivia, who lives in Hazlet, and Natasha, who lives in Austin, Texas.

Saatchi spoke to the Asbury Park Press recently about his journey and his hope for SimpliTend.

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Here are four takeaways:

From Iran to Bell Labs

Saatchi grew up in Tehran, Iran, and came to the United States in 1978 to escape the Iranian Revolution. He moved to Chicago, where an uncle lived, and attended the University of Illinois. He studied engineering and moved to New Jersey in 1983 to take a job with AT&T's Bell Labs, helping develop wireless phones.

His career took him to Lucent Technologies, Motorola and Verizon Wireless, giving him a front-row seat in the development of the cellphone. It was a pressure-packed and exciting career. During his stint at Motorola, a company executive laid out his vision.

Make smartphones easier for older people with Middletown man's app (3)

"He said, 'How many TVs do you have in your house?'" Saatchi said, remembering how some co-workers had two or three. "Imagine one day you will have three cellphones in your house. And everybody said, 'Are you nuts? That's not going to happen.'"

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Parkinson's takes a toll on the family

Saatchi has never been back to Iran. But when his mother, Molouk, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and developed complications from her medication, Saatchi and his sister decided to move her near his sister in northern New Jersey in search of a better plan to combat the illness.

The treatment improved, but Molouk's disease continued to progress. And Saatchi couldn't be there around the clock.

"I have a family, teenage kids, I'm working full-time, traveling for work, and also caring for a mother," Saatchi said. "It was tough."

Turning to technology

After Saatchi retired, he saw an opening to create an app that could simplify daily life for dementia patients and their caregivers by removing the firehose of information pouring through smartphones and replacing it with the necessities.

He wanted to create an app for seniors that included: the date and time; important contacts; medications; doctors' appointments; activities; and a location tracker. And he wanted to link it to a caregiver's mobile device.

It wasn't an easy project. His customers — both seniors and their family members — come from generations that didn't grow up with technology. And he and a team of four or five developers in India had to figure out how to link the two users, even if one had an Android and the other had an iPhone.

But they managed to solve the puzzle. Saatchi called the company SimpliTend, mainly because SimpliCare was taken. And he launched it earlier this year.

"We want to make sure both the senior app and caretaker app are simple for them to use," he said. "It was complicated."

Make smartphones easier for older people with Middletown man's app (4)

Is technology the answer?

The app has drawbacks. For example, it only allows seniors to connect with one caregiver. And the company is still developing a video feature, Saatchi said.

But the company is tapping into a growing market. By 2020, nearly two-thirds of people 70 and older owned a smartphone, according to AARP, opening the door both to the benefits and the drawbacks — they are easily reachable to family members and scam artists alike.

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The device puts pressure on its users to filter out the noise — a difficult proposition even for young consumers. The U.S. Surgeon General recently said social media sites pose a health risk for children and adolescents.

But Saatchi thinks he has developed an app that could address those issues by tailoring the smartphone to seniors.

"I want to help the seniors to age in place and stay in their home while they're older, and until there's a valid medical reason for them to go to a nursing home," he said. "That is my goal. Because seniors feel comfortable at their home, they feel safer at their home with their friends and neighbors. I want to make sure they stay in their home."

Michael L. Diamond is a business reporter who has been writing about the New Jersey economy and health care industry for more than 20 years. He can be reached at mdiamond@gannettnj.com.

Make smartphones easier for older people with Middletown man's app (2024)

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