By Marni Jackson

The senilization of the boomer bulge is almost upon us. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2025, the number of people over sixty-five will rise from 390 million to 800 million. Not all of them, it’s true, will be living in your spare bedroom—but by 2050 the number of North Americans liv­ing with dementia could reach as high as 16.5 million. And up to half of us who reach eighty-five will suffer some degree of dementia.So. Sixteen-and-a-half million of us, combing the underground parking lots saying, “It’s silver—no, metallic blue … .” Hundreds of us in the Star­bucks lineup saying “Hello, I’d like to make a deposit.” Armies of us forget­ting that we’ve been fired, and turn­ing up at the office.We might retain a few isolated phrases—“Pinot noir” or “Does it facesouth?” or “Is my gas tank on this side?” But not only will many of us no longer make much sense, we won’t be able to walk about or zip up our boots.As we lose our minds, cell by cell, however, one thing we won’t misplace or forget is our lifelong boomer con­viction that we are “special,” and not about to retire, or age, or ever stop whitewater kayaking. And when death insists that we meet him for a quiet dinner some night, we will assume there is going to be valet parking.

This is why, right now, in the cubicle of some heart­less entrepreneur, products are being developed for the online catalogue that will soon replace L.L.Bean and Vic­toria’s Secret on the sadly barren desks of our future: De­signs for Dementia. Here are a few items you may want to order early—before you forget.

The Recycling Cardigan

It’s not a pretty thought, but one day you will find it impossible not to spill your food on yourself. Crack­ers will crumble on your merino turtleneck, cheese will dot your trousers, and your shirt front will resem­ble a tasting menu. Designs for Dementia (with the han­dy mnenomic D for D) offers an attractive alternative to this: The Recycling Cardigan. Made of lambswool, poly­mer, and dried peat moss, this stylish cable-knit cardi­gan absorbs and quietly recycles any food particles that come in contact with the sweater (up to kibble-size fragments only). The peat moss converts the morsels to a harmless and almost odourless nitro­gen-related gas. This enriches the at­mosphere—at the same time that it safeguards your appearance and dig­nity. Available in ballpoint-ink navy, toast-crumb brown, and Dijon ochre.

The Grape

Consider this the next generation of the iPhone: a cellphone/organiz­er for the elder boomer with cognitive deficits. The Grape combines a GPS system with a simplified keypad that offers only one key: when you press the Grapeface, it dials the number of your extended-care institution and then relays the message “Please come and get me.” The gps then transmits your location. With its no-fumble Velcro wrist strap, The Grape will re­store confidence and allow users to blend into the wired world. When you use it in public, everyone will as­sume you’ve just upgraded your BlackBerry—when, in fact, you’ve gently retreated to the mono-tasking elegance of The Grape.

The Prada Walker

How long will it be before the curb becomes your Ever­est? Not long, if you’re reading this! Right now, you may be the sort of driver who honks at the elderly as they take their sweet time navigating crosswalks, but in twenty or thirty years, you too will be staggering through intersec­tions with ups trucks bearing down on you. But don’t settle for ordinary walkers, with their overtones of frail­ty and advanced age. Lurch forward in style, gripping the matte-black and brushed-chrome handlebars of the Prada Walker. Like the upscale paramilitary baby strollers pre­ferred by urban parents, the Prada Walker is equipped with an all-weather transparent dome, a beverage hold­er, a milk frother, and a dual function carrier/seat. When you find yourself lost in the bowels of the mall, simply sit, grip the “ignition claw,” and the Walker will motor you home—if you still know where that is!

“Hello… Lucy! How nice to see you

”The “Hello … Lucy!” product is one of our most popular new items. You don’t need to be demented to experience something we all go through: the erosion and loss of prop­er names. At the office party, the boss’s wife approaches. Your brain starts skipping like a dirty CD: Uhhhhh … oh God, it’s an L word … Laura … Linda … Lillian …. Your smile freezes, because a new colleague has joined you and you now have to introduce these two people. But with the “Hello … Lucy!” simply by touching your earring (or watch band), you activate the scanner-identikit that secretly reads the face of your boss’s wife, which you have pre­viously stored in your iLucy archive. This instantly retrieves her name and prompts you through a small nude-coloured earpiece. As you confident­ly step forward, saying, “Lucy! How lovely to see you again!” no one will ever guess that you have lost 50 to 60 percent of your short-term memory.

Elder Post-its

We’re all familiar with cubicles aflut­ter with Post-its reminding us of tasks and passwords. But with age, we will buy more and more Post-its, while f_o_r_g_e_t_t_i_n_g_ _t_o_ _w_r_i_t_e_ _a_n_y_t_h_i_n_g_ _o_n_ _t_h_e_m_. But Elder Post-its ease this transition; each package is already printed with universal reminders, such as “Call accountant,” “Book colonoscopy,” and “Close the fridge.”

The DiaperThong

When is a diaper not a diaper? When it’s a high-absorbing, low-riding, Burberry-plaid saucy thong, that’s when. Nothing says “Meet me in the TV room after lights out” like this practical and playful piece of lingerie. For men, D for D also offers the Tiger Woods “Hole-in-One” khakis, with a discrete catheter tube running down the inseam. For gentlemen with prostate issues or are simply too idle to walk to a toilet, the “Hole-in-One” allows you to inconspicuously void—in meetings, on the golf course, or even while dancing.

The Asbesta-Bed

Don’t imagine that you will finally be vice-free when you’re ninety-seven. You may need even more! Nicotine, for instance, increases the speed of synaptic transmission in the brain—so consider the benefits of chain-smoking after the age of eighty-five. You can lie in your adjustable bed, smoking your special “grippy paper” elder cigarettes, with the filter end coloured lime green so you don’t ac­cidentally light it. And the Asbesta-Bed is specially de­signed with the aged or demented bon vivant in mind; the box spring is fireproof asbestos, and the mattress is designed to smoulder without ever bursting into flames. It produces enough smoke to trigger ceiling detectors. (The Hemlock Society would like to add that this alarm function can be disarmed.)

The Inhibitor

Self-expression has always been a core value of the boomer generation. However, with dementia, this tendency can accelerate into inappropriate, “disinhibited” behav­iour. You may find yourself in a crowded dental waiting room, loudly saying, “You’re pretty cute, come on over here and give me a big kiss,” or “Someone with an ass like yours should never wear pants.” The answer to these impulses is The Inhibitor, a cellphone-sized device worn on the belt and controlled by a small remote carried by a spouse or caretaker. The Inhibitor delivers a harmless electric shock and is invalu­able at family gatherings, when “frank” outbursts—“Everybody thinks you never molested our sister but I know otherwise”—can have unpleasant consequences.

The Coffee ’n’ Crematorium

One delicate problem with advanced dementia is that it may very well slip our minds that … we are going to die. We won’t plan for it, or take steps to hasten it—which will be all the rage by 2025. So Designs for Dementia hopes to launch Coffee ’n’ Crematoria, a chain of upscale cafés which also act as “full service exit consortiums.” (This usage is thought to be the origin of the word c_r_e_­m_a_, the Italian term for the froth that forms on espres­so.) Membership includes the Mocha-Mori (the ultimate “coffee to go”) which delivers a triple shot of espresso, a final sugar rush, and then, poof, you’re gone. In an ante­chamber, your remains are then cremated and returned to the serving pod in a thermal urn. Plans to make the cre­mains available as a topping for special “mourning bev­erages” are still under consideration.Watch for the next product line from Designs for De­mentia: You’ll never know what you’re missing.

Published in the Walrus, October, 2010