Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Elderbloggers Pioneering the Future of Aging
In a story at boston.com about the future of aging, reporter Leon Neyfalkh concludes:
”...one thing we can definitely count on is that the old people of the future will have been young once — and the lives they were accustomed to then will, more than anything else, determine the lives they expect to lead later. Here’s hoping the iPad 15 plays cat videos.”
Although there are points in Neyfalkh's story with which I take issue, those like the one above referencing the fact that elders in 2040 or 2050 and beyond will have been using forms of computer technology all their lives, are spot on.
By then, that technology will allow remote monitoring of vital signs and other clues to an elder's health and well-being that will allow physicians and family members to keep watch from afar and intervene quickly when necessary while allowing future elders to live longer independently.
This struck me as such a smart observation:
“'Many of the problems of aging are evanescent — they come and they go,' said Tracy Zitzelberger, the administrative director of the Oregon Center for Aging and Technology at Oregon Health & Science University, which is developing a number of monitoring devices.
“'There are good days and bad days. When we only see our doctors on a good day because that’s when we don’t cancel our appointments, we get a very skewed assessment of our functioning. And that doesn’t get at the heart of the challenges of aging.'”
Not only that, I sometimes don't mention problems to my doctor because they don't seem important enough or, more frequently, because whatever it is hasn't bothered me for awhile so I forget.
As Neyfalkh notes, monitoring and observation that to you and me seem intrusive and even invasive will be commonplace to the elders of tomorrow, having been accustomed all their lives to tracking one anothers' locations via GPS and sharing every jot and tittle of their lives through Facebook or whatever will eventually replace it. (Yes, Facebook will become old fashioned and fade – probably sooner than we think.)
One of the biggest problems of old age is isolation. When we retire, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace. Old friends move away or die. For varieties of reasons, we ourselves move, leaving friends of many years behind. Children take up residence in faraway states and even countries.
Age can bring physical limitations too, keeping many from getting out and about. When the day comes to give up driving, we are further confined, and loneliness is serious business. It leads to depression, illness and sometimes, early death.
For all those reasons and more, I believe blogging – doing it oneself or as a reader and commenter – is an almost perfect pastime for elders. We have discussed in the past the importance of the friends we make and how they become, even at a distance, integral to our daily lives.
Neyfalkh acknowledges this and goes further:
”The people who will be facing these challenges in 40 years will be people accustomed to amusing themselves digitally, and creating a social life for themselves without another person physically present.
“To put it bluntly, the people who turn 70 in the year 2050 will be people who grew up playing video games. And the digital environment that now seems like a recipe for distraction — a constant feed of personal messages, links, and updates on one’s friends — starts to look a lot like a way for even a housebound person to stay engaged with the world.”
But you and I know that already, don't we? The kids of today will arrive at old age as natives to digital culture, but we are the pioneers, having taken it up in mid- and even late life and made it our own.
Were there no computers or internet, I have no doubt I would have found ways to keep myself as engaged as I do with this laptop. But I am assured now that if the day comes when I am stuck at home most of the time, I will never be lonely thanks to all of you.
And speaking of cat videos and iPads - oh, all right, it's an iPod: