Apple's May 7th Event Could Introduce OLED iPads, A Game-Changer for Older Adults and Those with Neurological Disorders

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Neal K. Shah, CEO of CareYaya Health Technologies, discussed how Apple's expected announcement of new iPads with OLED displays could revolutionize cognitive health and dementia care for older adults.

Neal K. Shah, CEO of CareYaya Health Technologies

Neal K. Shah

Credit: CareYaya Health Technologies

Apple's upcoming event on May 7th has the tech world buzzing with anticipation, particularly due to the expected unveiling of a new line of iPads featuring OLED displays.

I believe this innovation could have significant positive impacts on brain health, especially for older adults and those with dementia or neurological disorders. Being on the frontlines of digital health innovation, I'm excited about the integration of OLED technology in iPads and how it could revolutionize the way we approach cognitive health and digital therapeutics. Here's why.

The Rise of iPad Usage Among Older Adults

As we age, our vision often deteriorates, making it increasingly difficult to navigate the small screens and precise buttons of smartphones. This is why in recent years, iPads have emerged as the preferred device for older adults. With their larger displays and more intuitive interfaces, iPads offer a more accessible and user-friendly experience for seniors.

From engaging in virtual museum tours, to connecting with loved ones through FaceTime, to enabling telehealth visits, iPads have become a gateway to a world of possibilities for older adults. The introduction of OLED screens in iPads could further enhance this experience, making it even more appealing for older users.

iPads in Elder Care and Dementia Management

In recent years, the integration of iPads into elder care, particularly for those with dementia and Alzheimer, has been a game-changer. These devices have become valuable tools for engaging individuals in cognitive stimulation activities, helping them access telehealth from the comfort of their homes, and providing calming experiences through specialized video programming. Given the near-ubiquity of these devices, they’ve also become the leading frontier for innovations in digital therapeutics.

We've seen firsthand the positive impact of our dementia-friendly video content, CareYayaTV, on individuals with cognitive impairment. Family members and caregivers often provide their loved ones with an iPad with therapeutic videos to help calm them during moments of agitation, boredom, or confusion. The soothing visuals, gentle music, and plot-free content of these videos have proven to be incredibly effective in reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

The integration of OLED displays in iPads could further enhance the therapeutic potential of such digital innovations for dementia care. With their improved visual quality and reduced blue light emission, OLED iPads could create an even more immersive and comforting experience for users.

How OLED Screens Are Better for Cognitive Health

OLED displays offer several key benefits versus traditional LCD and mini-LED screens, that could positively impact the health and well-being of older adults and those with neurological disorders.

Blue light emissions and the profound impact on the circadian rhythm:

Humans evolved in a world where the sun was the primary source of light. Nights were characterized by an absence of light. Fires and candles were sometimes used, which have similarities to solar-derived light spectra. With the sudden ubiquity of smartphones and tablets in the past 15-20 years, humans are now subjected to non-natural light spectra and timing of light exposure, which may have profound and unintended impacts on human physiology.

Research has recently shown how excessive blue light emissions, not found in solar spectra, but prevalent in smartphones and tablet screens, pose risks to human health. These include potential phototoxic risk to the retina, and negative impact on sleep and circadian rhythms.

Natural blue light found in the solar spectrum contributes to our alertness and cognitive functions. In the morning, there is more blue light to keep us awake and alert. As the day progresses, the reds increase, triggering the secretion of melatonin so we can sleep at night. Smartphones and tablets don’t follow such patterns, thus disrupting our circadian rhythms.

Credit: OLED Space, LG Display

Credit: OLED Space, LG Display

The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a warning report entitled “Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting.” In it, it stated that “disruption of circadian rhythmicity and sleep from the indiscriminate use of electric light at night may well increase risk of many of the diseases of modern life, including not only certain cancers but also obesity, diabetes, and psychiatric disorders.”

Traditional iPads made with LCD or mini-LED screens, emit a significant amount of blue light, which can disrupt the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to poor sleep quality. In contrast, OLED displays are designed to emit lower levels of blue light and at longer wavelengths, which are less harmful. OLEDs in general emit 50% less blue light than LCDs.

This reduction in blue light exposure can help mitigate the negative impact on our circadian rhythm, promoting healthier sleep patterns. Research has shown that blue light exposure before bedtime inhibits melatonin secretion and delays deep REM sleep, adversely impacting health. Over the long-term, this can lead to cognitive decline.

Credit: Tsinghua University, “Blue-Hazard Free OLED”, J.-H. Jou et al.

Credit: Tsinghua University, “Blue-Hazard Free OLED”, J.-H. Jou et al.

For individuals with dementia, who often experience "sundowning" – increased agitation and confusion in the evening, along with difficulty falling asleep – the lower blue light emission of OLED screens could be particularly beneficial. By minimizing the sleep-disrupting effects of blue light, OLED iPads could help create a more calming and conducive environment for restful sleep, improving overall sleep quality and well-being.

Reduced Eye Strain and Fatigue

OLED screens emit light directly from each pixel, eliminating the need for a backlight. This results in a more comfortable viewing experience, reducing eye strain and fatigue compared to traditional LCD or mini-LED screens. For older adults and those with neurological conditions, who may already face visual challenges, this could make a significant difference in their daily iPad usage.

Enhanced Contrast and Readability

OLED screens provide superior contrast ratios compared to LCD displays, resulting in deeper blacks and brighter whites. This enhanced contrast can improve readability, making it easier for older adults and those with visual impairments to consume content on their iPads. Improved readability may also encourage more frequent use of brain-training apps and other cognitively stimulating activities.

Potential for Adaptive Interfaces

The flexibility of OLED technology opens up possibilities for adaptive interfaces that cater to individual needs. For example, an iPad with an OLED screen could automatically adjust display settings based on the user's visual acuity or specific neurological condition, optimizing the user experience and potentially enhancing the therapeutic benefits of certain apps.

A Brighter Future for Neurological Care

The potential integration of OLED displays in iPads, as hinted at by the upcoming Apple event on May 7th, could be a big step in the evolution of digital health tools for older adults and those with neurological disorders. By offering lower blue light emission resulting in improved sleep quality, reduced eye strain, enhanced readability, and the potential for adaptive interfaces, OLED iPads could revolutionize the way we approach cognitive health and dementia care.

We are excited about the prospect of integrating OLED iPads into our digital therapeutics solutions. We believe that this technological advancement could greatly enhance the effectiveness of our interventions and improve the quality of life for many older adults.

As we await Apple's announcement, let’s embrace the potential of OLED technology in iPads as a catalyst for innovation in neurological care. By harnessing the power of these cutting-edge devices, we can create a brighter, more connected future for older adults and those navigating the challenges of dementia and other neurological disorders.

Neal K. Shah is the CEO of CareYaya Health Technologies, one of the fastest-growing health tech startups in America. He runs a social enterprise and applied research lab utilizing AI to advance health equity, with a focus on neurological care for elders with dementia, Alzheimer and Parkinson. Shah has advanced AI projects to improve neurological care with support from the National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins AITC and Harvard Innovation Labs. Neal is a “Top Healthcare Voice” on LinkedIn with a 35k+ following.

REFERENCES
1. Holt K. Apple is launching new iPads May 7: Here's what to expect from the 'Let Loose' event. Engadget. Published April 30, 2024. Accessed May 3, 2024. https://www.engadget.com/apple-is-launching-new-ipads-may-7-heres-what-to-expect-from-the-let-loose-event-210041117.html
2. CareYayaTV. CareYaya. Accessed May 3, 2024. https://www.careyaya.org/resources/blog/videos-for-dementia
3. Blue Light Has a Dark Side. Harvard Health. Published July 7, 2020. Accessed May 3, 2024. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
4. Hatori M, Gronfier C, Van Gelder RN, et al. Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induced circadian disruption in modern aging societies. NPJ Aging Mech Dis. 2017;3:9. Published 2017 Jun 16. doi:10.1038/s41514-017-0010-2
5. OLED, Recognized as Eye-Friendly by Ophthalmologists. OLED Space. Published April 11, 2023. Accessed May 3, 2024. https://www.oledspace.com/en/oled-inside/tech-review/oled-recognized-as-eye-friendly-by-ophthalmologists/
6. Blue Hazard Free Candlelight Style OLED (OLED Auditorium). Tsinghua University. Youtube. Published Oct 15, 2015. Accessed May 3, 2024. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF60K_Bvulc
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