A smarter phone for older adults

Jorge Terreu Serrano

Since technological advances became part of our society, diverse opinions have emerged about the advantages and disadvantages they have brought to our lives. What we do know is that new technologies have completely changed our daily routines. However, these advances have also led to greater inequality that affects not only the economic level, but also the generational level.

In recent years, technological advances have facilitated the flow of information and offered new work dynamics and even new communication channels. That is why now, more than ever, it is important to know how to handle digital platforms and technological tools: they help us to access very wide and varied content, communicate with our loved ones, and even entertain ourselves in our day-to-day lives.

Social media platforms were created to allow universal connection between people who were in different places. According to a study carried out by IAB SPAIN in 2020, 87% of Internet users aged 16 to 65 use Social Networks, which represents almost 26 million users in Spain. However, where are the older adults? Why are there no tools that bring the use of new technologies closer to older generations, allowing them to also enjoy the benefits they offer us? This is how Maximiliana arised: the first mobile phone for the eldest or for those that do not deal well with technological devices, which works completely autonomously without the need to press any button.

Figure 1. A caption showing how Maximiliana’s phone looks like. Image credit: Maximiliana.

Maximiliana is Jorge’s grandmother; he is the founder and current director of the company. The idea arose in 2018 when Jorge, during his Erasmus stay in France, felt the need to communicate with his family, specially with his grandmother. She did not engage well with technological gadgets, and thus the only means of communication were classic telephone calls. This fact made it impossible to make video calls by which he could keep a closer contact with his grandmother.

Taking advantage of the fact that Jorge was studying computer engineering, he decided to start designing a device that would allow him to communicate closely with his grandmother from a distance, without her having to touch or know how to use this tool.

Months later, in April 2019, the first prototype of this project Jorge had in mind was born. Little by little, he was testing and progressing on his idea which, in March 2020, led to the development of a viable product. Given the pandemic situation at that moment, Maximiliana received their first donation to develop the first 5 terminals for the Zaragoza Clinical Hospital, which also allowed for further product testing. In June 2020, multiple media heard about the project and broadcasted its technological impact on the radio and newspapers.

It is at that moment when the company was founded, thanks to a capital investment that allowed the beginning of a new, more serious stage with significant resources to acquire terminals and begin to develop the product at a larger scale. At the same time, Pedro, Jorge’s friend from University and current technical director of the company, joined the team. Maximiliana took her first steps as a serious company in September 2020 with the opening of the offices in Plaza San Francisco and the arrival of their first clients. At the beginning of 2021, up to 4 more people joined the team, which led to create various departments within the enterprise such as Business Development or Marketing.

Currently, Maximiliana, Jorge’s grandmother, is still using the system developed by her grandson which, in turn, has been extended to more users who now can feel a little closer to their loved ones in a simple and easy way.

As for the product, Maximiliana is a monthly subscription that includes a configured and conditioned terminal for all those older people who do not have technological management. The main characteristic of this device is that all incoming calls and video calls go off-hook by themselves, which results in an easy communication between our users and their loved ones — note that the responsible family member is in charge of controlling the device. The idea gained importance as a result of the crisis caused by COVID-19, when lockdowns and mobility restrictions made it necessary for people to use technological devices to keep themselves in touch. Those who have suffered the most negative consequences of this crisis at a social level are the elderly, who are often alone and without the possibility of contact with their families beyond telephone calls. According to a study carried out by the company thyssenkrupp Home Solutions, 72% of people over 65 years old admit that what they missed the most during lockdowns was their family and, especially, their grandchildren; well ahead of going out for a walk (63%) or seeing friends (52%). Maximiliana seeks to break down these barriers and offer more direct contact to users in a simple way adapted to their limited or even non-existent technological skills.

On the other hand, the lack of time often delays a phone call or a family reunion. However, thanks to Maximiliana, interacting with the family is much easier since we can greet our loved ones in a few seconds and regardless of their location. Being able to connect with family through video calls is more interactive and makes it easier for them to feel their company, hence preventing a feeling of loneliness. In essence, Maximiliana is a first approach that elder people can have to new technologies which, in turn, makes them more open to them, hence increasing their confidence and self-esteem while encouraging them to seek new technological challenges.

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By Jorge Terreu Serrano, Director of Maximiliana, an enterprise focused on developing technological devices adapted to be easily and intuitively used by the eldest of our society. 

More information:

  1. Website resource (source in Spanish): Maximiliana.
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