When Will the Boomers Grow Up?
On My Way - At Last

A Laptop For Every Elder

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported on a project of Nicholas Negroponte and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab:

“…producing a laptop so cheap that governments could afford to link every child in the world to the Internet."

Negroponte’s team and other organizations have been pushing to create a $100 laptop and, in cooperation with the United Nations and sponsorship from such corporations as Google and Advanced Micro Devices, to distribute them to developing countries and even within in the United States. Production will begin in late 2006 with distribution to follow shortly thereafter.

As was stated at a meeting of the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society, “everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to participate” in the benefits of information technology.

And so it should be for elders too.

Older people sometimes become isolated, families may live far away, friends die and perhaps they can’t get out and about as easily as in the past. As any of us bloggers know, access to the internet puts us in touch with limitless fascinating information from all over the world, makes shopping easy, keeps us in touch with friends and family and creates opportunities for new friendships that are no less affectionate for being at a physical distance.

And should elders take up blogging, there are important benefits in helping to maintain mental sharpness.

There could be another important benefit to wiring elders: as I have mentioned previously here, the number of physicians, especially those trained in geriatrics, will not keep pace in the coming years with the number of aging people who will need treatment. If we can get inexpensive computers and internet connections into every retirement home, assisted living facility and individuals living on their own on fixed incomes, a lot of monitoring by physicians can be done over the internet and by email, relieving some of the congestion in doctors’ offices.

I will be speaking on this topic, Respect Your Elder Bloggers, with Marian Douglas and Lori Bitter of the JWT Mature Market Group at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas in March.

It’s exciting to find that Mr. Negroponte has already finished the first step of creating inexpensive hardware which could probably work, with some small modifications, in a program for older adults as well this one for children.

Blogging Into Old Age
The Nature of Blog Friends
All My Blog Friends Live Close By


I have been a long-time follower of Negroponte. His book "Being Digital" shifted the silicon sands in tje mid-90s.

The $100 laptop is a wonderful social objective, and may suffice for any elder that still has good eyesight for a smallish screen, ample dexterity to manipulate tiny controls, and never used a real computer, thereby not missing the bells and whistles etc. Better to take a wait-and-see attitude rather than betting the farm on this one.

The elderfuture will have to include computer communications simply because no one under 60 today will tolerate life without it.

What is sad is that so many of today's elders have the mistaken notion that it's complicated. This was true twenty and thirty years ago, but not anymore.

If we can make a $100 laptop, then it must be possible to make one with big fonts and keys to accomodate people with diminished eyesight and dexterity. At the university where I work we have a professor who is nearly blind, but he uses a computer. The technology is available if we're willing to get it to the people who need it.

What most elderly suffer from once they lose their mobility is lack of mental stimulation, and this seems to age them very rapidly. What really struck my about my maternal grandmother was that when I would go to visit (she lived in CT and I am in TX) I would find her vague and disoriented. But with each daily visit she would get sharper, to where by the time I left she was as quick and clever in her thinking as I remembered in my childhood.

A computer can keep this kind of stimulation going because it is interactive. A TV cannot. And even in the best nursing homes, staff can only do so much.

Another thing I've thought would be great for the elderly is virtual reality. I hope VR really comes to pass because wouldn't that be a great way for people who are unable to get around very well to still have some interesting adventures?

At my grandmother's nursing home, they were showing a movie about the Great Depression one day. What on earth were they thinking? Like my grandmother hadn't already seen enough of that to last a lifetime. But now, if it had been a virtual trip to Paris-- hey, sign the lady up!

Technology has great potential to enrich our lives, no matter what our age. The question will be whether or not we as a people decide to use it that way.

I have found a new circle of friends since I began blogging. It is stimulating and keeps my interest in the world sharpened. What I like best is sharing my life with others, particularly younger bloggers. Reading others posts and leaving comments often make me feel like an elder woman of wisdom. Like Winston, I hope the technology for older citizens is available when our eyes dim. I can't imagine not being on the Internet.

Born Dec.30,1911. Still have my memory aand love to talk to people who can remember their past. I am a native Californian, have never lived anywhere else, but did a lot of travelingin my younger days. My eye sight not to good and hearing very bad, otherwise just have those aches and pains of old age. Do water exeercise nearly every day to keep me going.

Can understand your concern, Ann, about the movie being shown your grandmother -- espcially if your grandmother had no interest in The Great Depression. The reality is that many times activities have to be designed for individuals with mixed interests and intellectual capabilities.

I find the subject interesting because I can recall my mother's descriptions of her experience. I can better understand some of the times in which she lived; the influences on her life which, in turn, affected me -- "Clean up your plate;" "Don't leave the lights on if you're not using them."

Some people really enjoy hearing/seeing stories, now viewed as history, about the times, experiences they lived through. While not many might share some of my specific areas of interest there is a lot of historical subject matter out there. It wasn't history when we lived it. Interesting to see what has survived as "history" of significance.

I enjoy reading about the events and experiences of broadcast associated personnel (executives, newspeople, production staff,) especially those emanating from the "Big Three" television networks during their heyday. The surrounding operations and news media decisions, actual story coverage in relation to now documented history is intriguing to compare with my memory and perceptions of the time. The ethical and moral decisions, other influences, that informed what I saw broadcast is of interest to me. (How does it compare with today's news?)

There are those who thrive on anything that is familiar, including events we might find depressing. Highly emotionally loaded events are what sometimes enable people to tap into their memories from long ago which enlivens some. More recent memories may not be as accessible. Really comes down to what those watching seem to enjoy, respond to, and, if able, express a wish to view.

I've been aware of the inappropriate selection of music which is played for different generations of older people. Some will like listening to "a little of the new stuff," but generally prefer the music of their generation, culture. Even then, they may only prefer a certain genre'. Think some science studies have shown that music we don't like adversely affects our bodies just like "noise."

Effectively entertaining groups of people is not always simple, often can be quite complex.

Also, interesting to note that some people (not just older) respond better only when family, friends present. For that period of time they're more oriented to reality. The visual stiumlation of familiar faces triggers memories not present once loved ones depart.

As if I didn't say enough in my previous post, I meant to add ...

Yes, let's get those $100 laptops into use so people can access their special areas of interest, email others, make cyberfriends ....

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)