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Butler Robots, Dr. Toilets and Other Sci-Fi Health Solutions We’ll All Be Using

Our future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades. Like maybe tunable shades, sunglasses that let you adjust their magnification as you wear them, a triumph for squinting midlife menu-readers everywhere! 

This is just one example of the kinds of super-cool innovations that are emerging to solve the pesky problems that come along with getting a little older. Next for X has been digging deep to discover what great devices, ideas, and solutions will be waiting for us. Here are five cool advances happening right here, right now. 

Give Aging Cells The Boot 
Wouldn’t it be nice if the old, exhausted cells in your body could retire and let the kids do the heavy lifting? That’s one path to a longer, better life, and it may soon be possible thanks to senolytics, i.e. using pharmaceuticals to clear out antiquated cells that aren’t pulling their weight anymore. Scientists believe that by getting rid of these laggards, the aging process can be delayed — possibly even avoided. A recent drug trial had successful results: two meds (the leukemia-fighter dasatinib and a supplement called quercetin) were given to a small sample of patients with a challenging lung condition called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which involves worn-out cells. After a round of the meds, the patients showed improvement in several measures of wellbeing, such as walking farther in a given amount of time. “This gives us… a green light to go on to larger trials,” explains James Kirkland, a Mayo Clinic professor who helped lead the experiment. And senolytics trials at other research centers are soon to be underway. Nerd out on the science behind it here

This Robot Arm Will Do Your Chores — And Fix You A Cocktail 
Feel like you’ve given enough years of your life to doing household chores? Imagine how much more true that will be 20 or 30 years from now (yikes!). Fortunately, Samsung feels your pain and has devised a prototype butler bot, Handy, which debuted at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show this month. With its one long arm and claw-style hand, the robot can load the dishwasher, set the table, and even pour you a glass of wine — nice! Thanks to AI and a synergy of cameras, it is able to detects an item location and approximate weight so it performs with a delicate touch. No word yet on its exact release date — or whether it does windows. Click here to meet your future helpmate. Don’t want to wait? Learn about a robot that is available on the market right now, in this story

You’d Be Dumb Not to Get This Smart Toilet
You may think what you do in the bathroom is nobody’s business, but the truth is, you’re flushing away a literal trove of evidence about your current and future health. Put that waste to work and imagine a future where you can skip trips to the doctor’s office when you’re older — and maybe even forgo colonoscopies altogether. Well, the future is (almost!) here. Scientists at Stanford University retro-fit a standard toilet with cameras and sensors, creating a commode that can analyze pee and poo through algorithms and a dipstick test and just published the results of their first study. This scifi creation, now entering its second round of consumer testing, promises to sense biomarkers for diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, kidney failure and colorectal cancer before a person even experiences symptoms of an illness. And get this: it recognizes different users in the same household with a camera, because apparently our “anal flower” (as Dali used to call it, and which inspired this team) is as unique to each of us as a fingerprint. This next-gen toilet is next step in anticipatory healthcare, and we can’t wait for it. If you’re flush with excitement, click here to read more.

Hearing Aids That Detect Trips
“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” was a punchline back in the day, showing up on Roseanne, Golden Girls and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but in reality, falls are no laughing matter: every 11 seconds, an older adult ends up in the ER from a fall, and 32,000 deaths occur annually. But listen up! There’s one recent advance that sounds promising: hearing aids with an AI-fueled fall detection feature that will send an alert  to the emergency contacts you’ve chosen should you (or your mom or dad) tumble. This advancement comes from hearing-aid pros Starkey, in response to the stat that people with hearing loss are three times more likely to fall than those without auditory issues. That makes this new feature sound especially good. Available now; price varies since devices are custom, but expect to pay around $5,000. Want to hear more? Check it out here.

Take a Shared Adventure Without Leaving Home
So many of us dream that we’ll embark on amazing travels when we’re older… but what if by the time we have the time and the money to become vagabonds, our bodies aren’t up to, say, a stroll along the Great Wall? VR developers have us covered. The team at Rendever, for example, has deployed this technology to give elders in senior living communities and hospitals incredible, engaging experiences without going anywhere. Just by donning a standard VR headset, participants can immerse themselves in great works of art, go scuba-diving, stroll around Paris, or hike a major mountain — and even better, they can do it with others. The bonus of a group adventure enriches the experience, providing mood-boosting benefits: a study compared people who shared VR experiences with those who watched TV shows together, and former were significantly less likely to report depression or social isolation. Maybe Thursday night VR adventures will become the 90210 weekly watch parties of our golden years. Available through senior communities with an annual subscription. Don your headset here.

Image courtesy Samsung.

Next for X, sponsored by #disruptaging

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Janet Siroto

Janet Siroto is an NYC-based journalist and content strategist who specializes in lifestyle, wellness and consumer-trend topics, as well as personal essays.

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