New Set-Top Box Targets Seniors

During the VCR’s heyday, the overused joke was that grandma just could never figure out how to get that blinking “12:00” to turn off. Today, more devices than ever are attached to the TV, including ones aimed specifically at getting people age 65 and older to keep in touch with family and friends while also watching their favorite TV shows.

One such device is becoming available on Amazon as of Sept. 19 – the $149 SentabTV, a device that promotes features including photo sharing, video chats and phone calling and an emphasis on making social media easier for a demographic that usually isn’t inclined to use Facebook and the like.

According to U.S. Census data, by 2040 there will be 82.3 million Americans 65 and older, and it’s a digital market that’s been largely ignored, according to Gordon Schenk, California-based senior VP of business development at Sentab, a European firm.

“The demographic watches live linear programming 78% of the time, and our solution…allows the individual to watch their existing [pay TV], with the social features overlaid on top of that, and also be connected to family, friends and caregivers,” Schenk told Next TV. “One of the neat features of our digital media player, compared to the Rokus and Apple TVs out there, is we have a patented feature set where you don’t have to switch any inputs. Once the box is installed…you never have to switch inputs again, and watch TV as you normally would.”

Existing live, linear cable, satellite and telco services can be connected via HDMI cables to the SentabTV, and a $10 monthly subscription adds services including making audio and video calls directly from the TV; photo and video sharing; a newsfeed; games that specifically target cognitive retention; and an online community and marketplace section.

“We have a perceived gap in social media that relates to the senior community,” Schenk said. “If you look at the numbers for Facebook, 65 or older is almost in the single digits. Being able to get a creative way for them to be social is our focus.”

Sentab said some senior residency groups in the U.S. are testing the set-top and services. Future add-ons could include health and fitness tracking via Bluetooth, Schenk said.