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Crabby Old Lady and Elder Tech

When Crabby Old Lady was growing up, the most ubiquitous radio and, later, television commercials for health remedies were about tummy upsets (Pepto Bismol), headaches (Bayer aspirin) and sore muscles (Ben-Gay) – nothing serious enough, most of the time, for a doctor and the products were relatively benign.

These days, drug commercials have gone big-time. They are all about cancer, diabetes, COPD, stroke, heart disease, dementia, and the rest that strike fear into those who are diagnosed and are, you will note, almost entirely to old people.

Although Crabby resents the constant presentation of elders as diseased and sick, she understands that to advertisers, we are where the money is - a large, still growing cohort that does, after all, use more of these drugs and treatments than younger people.

But nowadays it's not just hangnails and cancer. There is a burgeoning industry of “smart technology” specifically for old people. At least one writer calls it “gerontechnology” and by that he means:

”...devices or solutions, including telehealth, telecare, information and communication, and robotic options.”

Crabby Old Lady calls it elder tech and it is both much more intrusive than is mentioned in the reporting about it, the brochures and the advertising.

Writing at Atlas of Science, Stephen M. Golant tells us the goal of elder tech is to help elders lead healthier, more independent and active lives. He then lists specific solutions which Crabby is quoting in full because you should know what is available, in development and/or being planned for us:

'This technology relies on sensors found in the bracelets, necklaces, clothing, watches, or smartphones of older adults, inserted in the walls, floors, lighting, appliances, or furniture of their dwellings, or even implanted in their bodies.

“Robots with human-like appearances may also incorporate these sensors. They can continually monitor and evaluate the physical health conditions of older persons, their cognitive (e.g., memory and reasoning) and sensory (e.g., hearing and vision) performance, physical agility, activities in their dwellings, and social connections.

“They also monitor the comfort, safety, and security of their homes by measuring their air pollutants, dampness, water leaks, mold, bacterial infections, poor lighting or visibility, accident risks, and extreme temperature conditions.

“These sensors communicate their monitored information to older persons and designated family members and professionals who can respond to their unmet needs or problems.”

That's a whole lotta elder tech going on.

Given the amount of time Crabby has spent with physicians and other health care professionals over the past 15 months, she is most looking forward to telehealth and telecare. It exists in a few quarters but is, apparently, slow to be adopted.

If it were available to Crabby, she could have avoided about half the dozens of in-person visits she made with health care individuals in the past year. And it would be a boon to people who cannot or do not drive any longer.

Some of this technology, such as home sensors, bracelets, smartphones, etc. (the ones aimed at old people) have been on the market for at least a decade, becoming more sophisticated with each new release. Some others are at various stages of development, all often marketed to the adult children of elders, and not to elders themselves.

And that's the part about this equipment that makes Crabby Old Lady dubious, deeply so, with the use of these phrases:

“they can continually monitor”
“implanted in their bodies”
"communicate their monitored information”

It's just plain creepy that someone would know and make note if Crabby slept in past her usual waking time. Or that she stayed up all night. Or if it reported her to some anonymous monitor for “accident risks”.

Not to mention that if someone has not yet incorporated Alexa-type listening devices into these monitors, they soon will so that nothing an elder says or does in his/her home is private ever again.

Some elders may like all this peeping Tom elder tech and certainly many can attest to the importance of their medical alert buttons if they have fallen or have needed another kind of help. The difference is that no one is listening 24/7 through those alert devices and they are activated by the persons wearing them.

Golant's purpose with his article is to explain his study into whether elders will even use these smart devices. He has come up with four factors that would influence their decisions:

How serious they are about their health conditions
How resilient and receptive they are to new ideas
How persuasive the information is about the product
How good and/or bad past personal experience with technology has been

It sounds to Crabby that according to Golant she, at age 77, would make a decision pretty much on the same bases as she did at age 27. He suggests that elders focus on three attributes in choosing to purchase these products and services:

  1. Usefulness
  2. Ease of use
  3. Collateral damage

To Golant's credit, he mentions “assaults on privacy” as an example of collateral damage.

Overall, Crabby Old Lady is unsettled by these devices and solutions even as she can see some of their merit. A big problem for Crabby is that we know now after several decades of computers and related technology, that nothing is private anymore.

Not to mention the omnipresence of surveillance wherever we go. These new products just add indoor home cameras and microphones to the public ones that track us on every block.

Really now - Crabby Old Lady would like to walk around naked in her own home when she feels like it with the certainty she is not being watched.

What about you?

Just for fun here at the end, this is a trailer for my favorite robot movie, Robot and Frank starring Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon. As one of the YouTube commenters wrote:

”A brilliant piece of science fiction and drama without a single alien or spaceship."


This post is timely. I am no longer young but I can cope. My next door neighbors are ten years older and struggling. I know them only thru occasional front porch chats. They are very private and have not shared (with me) their phone number nor their email. Their daughter lives far away and seldom visits. Recently my friend, who knows them as I do, was talking to them and heard a terrifying tale of forgetting to pay their phone bill and getting cut off... then attempting to pay in person... getting lost and driving around for hours. They were rescued when a woman flagged them down because she noticed them circling her neighborhood repeatedly. The police got them home.

As far as we know that was the end of it. Nobody followed up until my friend contacted local Adult Protective Services who, we think, are helping. These people are frail and, while he uses a computer, he cannot master a cell phone. They are suspicious of the automatic payment offered by most utilities. Would a technology watch-dog help? Who would be on the other end of the technology? I don't know. Both of them have fallen in their house and seemed confused about who to call for help.

I understand their desire to stay in their house... as well as the dangers in doing so.

I loved the movie, I don't like the tech and abhor the Pharm. REally simple.

This is very interesting. I suppose there is a possibility that these changes will lead to longer, healthier lives.
On the other hand, we have certain politicians constantly talking about the "necessity" to cut back health benefits and medicare!!

Does the left hand (so to speak) talk to the right?

Personally, I am thrilled to be living in a day and age when a senior who chooses to live alone can do so more safely. This increases one's independence and freedom and choices. As to collateral damage, that is less worrisome to me than the risks associated with living alone unmonitored. We've all heard the stories... It's always the risk/ benefit ratio. In my case, any person or " thing " monitoring my household would be bored to tears. Talking to my dogs or parrot is sure to confound the system.

Again, technology is going to give us what we want in our senior years, that ability to live independently. Why fight it? It's coming if we want it or not.

Ronnie, your also bringing to our attention the reduction in healthcare visits which could easily be conducted at home is a huge plus. Good things are ahead.

Here's a shout out for the future,


My first introduction to Ronnie Wisdom was a piece many years ago which you wrote about being single. You don't have to close the bathroom door. That resonated with my choice of living singly, and this new tech intrusion on privacy strikes dread in my soul. I can understand some benefits such using telemedicine. But having every fart monitored seems ecxessive.

Good heavens, people, if this technology worries you, don't buy it. As someone who lives alone, I love knowing that this technology is or will be available if and when I want it. It's entirely my choice. As for who is monitoring it, that too will be my choice. Most likely, it will be my son or other nearby family. Unless and until I'm committed to assisted living, it will be my choice.

While I wouldn't mind some sort of health monitor so that I had a better idea of when I actually really needed to see the doctor, I hate the idea of some-one being able to see and hear me all the time. However, given a choice between independent living with monitors and going into a home, independence wins every time.

Commenting about the devices being offered.

Interesting and as Trudi commented a timely topic, Ronni, thank you for bringing it up.
Pure serendipity is this in my Nurses Newsletter this week....


In my opinion, it's just another HEALTH 'BUSINESS' as usual money making tool ! Are they accurate? God only knows. Surprising to me was the fact that the FDA gave the new Apple Watch features first-of-its-kind, clearance, in a matter of weeks.

The ECG app can supposedly create, record, store, and transfer a single-channel ECG "similar to a Lead I ECG" and "determines the presence of atrial fibrillation or sinus rhythm on a classifiable waveform," the FDA clearance letter states. Yet, believe it or not, the ECG app is NOT recommended for users diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, one of the most common worries among older citizens.

It was a lengthy piece and I will be most interested in the responding comments made by other nurses and doctors this week.

As usual in life, a trade-off. WE have to choose how to use this technology. How long before the "government" becomes involved.....shades of 1984, Soylent Green?

By the time our children get to our age, the worst of the bugs in this technology will have been worked out, and there will be new social norms surrounding how and when it should be used. (Though straight-line predictions are guaranteed to be wrong, because everything affects everything else.)

We, however, are the "lucky" generation that gets to beta-test all this stuff. So, yes, fight back when it's too invasive. Demand better personal autonomy. Refuse to be pushed around (if and when you can, it won't always be possible).

It's not just for yourself. Once software is coded, it keeps on doing its thing for everyone. The framework is being set now. Every inch of independence and respect you gain by demanding it will be making life better for many, many other people, far into the future.

Yes, Nancy, "1984" comes to my mind too.

It was required reading in my high school Journalism class. We are already into "double speak" and I was spooked by Orwell's novel even when I was 17. Now I will likely still choose to be one of the "OWNLIFE" groups in his writing.

I am quite fond of all the modern technology and get along just fine with computers, etc. Bring it on. I welcome all the gizmos. But then again, I'm an odd-ball kind of female who loves to repair anything from watches and transmission systems to computers.
My problem is that at this end of my life, I am what might be considered poor as a church mouse and can't even afford much of any of this.
Oh, well, it's great fun to watch all the new stuff come along.

As I age I wonder if I am reverting to being a two-year-old, whose automatic response is "No!". I still have a flip phone that I generally use only if I get a flat tire. I only use the computer for email and to follow the news and look things up. I wear a DNR tag around my neck so that (hopefully) I will be allowed to die naturally. I don't use social media. I am very suspicious of my buying habits, health, or anything else being tracked by unknown entities. I am also a firm believer in the old Yankee adage "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without". Well, I do buy things I don't need, I must confess. But I wonder - what are we all going to do when the electricity goes off for a long time?

I can mostly deal with the eldertech, even though much of it seems to assume that I am incapable of monitoring my own body and its functions. Even more annoying to me, however, are the services that feel condescending, such as my insurance sending me a notice every damn month to refill my prescriptions - all on the same date, no less, even though they run out at different times.

I also dislike the push to make people fulfill their prescriptions by mail, often at a discount - which implies that we are paying too much in person. However, I like my pharmacy. They can tell me if a drug will react with something else I'm taking. They know me for fourteen years and know my disabilities. They will let my roommate pick up my prescriptions, and will call me if a doctor's approval is needed for something then call my doctor to get that approval. If a drug I am taking gets recalled, like my blood pressure medicine recently did, they will call me in time for me to get a new prescription so there is no gap in my care.

Yes, I have some disabilities that seriously impact my ability to get around, but I do not have disabilities that impact my ability to think or to take care of myself, and I really resent being treated as if being over 65 means that I must be told every little thing to do or I will forget to do it.

Honestly, the condescending attitude shown by many of the health providers I have had to deal with as I have gotten older (not my doctors, thank G-d), is insulting, and demeaning. Growing older does not necessarily mean growing dumber, after all.

Think I want to see that movie. Today I'm trying to find a ride across town for hubby's new CPAP. We can't afford a taxi in this city. Also need to line up a walker for me according to the new physical therapist. House is to small to navigate around furniture with one so it will only work out. How do you use one to go grocery shop? I have to use an electric cart. sigh...


Yes!!! about disliking the pressure to buy prescription medicines by mail. I like my pharmacy and I like the pharmacists who do for me all the things you list. They are not quite friends, I guess, but we've come to know one another and it is a good thing to have those relationships in and around one's town or neighborhood.

I know that no one on this site has Alzheimer's, and no one to my knowledge, except me, has ever mentioned living with an ALZ sufferer. But when that person starts to "wander" as frequently happens, the idea of being able to find them via a bracelet or even a chip implanted in the body is not so much scary as something to consider seriously. I have had to call the police to find my husband twice in the past year, and sent our son out to look for him on several other occasions. He never goes out without his wallet or keys, habits of a lifetime, but he never carried or used a cell phone, and I have not been able to get him to form that new habit. He is no where close to needing a locked memory ward, so please do consider the people who could perhaps benefit from these technologies.

Also, I love getting his many, many prescriptions by mail, because it's that many fewer errands for me to do after work. As you all know, prescriptions tend to expire at different times, and it can lead to repeated pharmacy visits, replete with long lines and pharmacy checkout clerks who certainly have no qualifications to note drug interactions, for which I count on the prescribers, who have all their high tech electronic records at hand.

What I don't like is the new phenomenon in Seattle of "medical recorders" who stand behind the MD taking notes on the conversation so the doctor doesn't have to be distracted by doing that himself. I accept it when accompanying my ALZ husband to doctor's visits, but it does make me more reticent to voice my concerns. I won't let them do it when I see my own doctor -- she tells me what to say to my husband's doctor to spare my husband from invasive tests and procedures that only freak him out.

I'm not especially bothered by all the tech stuff available for seniors. If it helps keep us in our own homes longer and healthy, bring it on. Ya, there is a loss of privacy but it's no where near as bad as the loss of privacy we'd get in assisted living.

Like getting Rx's by mail. That way I don't have to deal with the condescending and judgmental demeanor pharmacists (and some other health "care" providers) can demonstrate these days if you take certain meds. I can look up drug interactions online and ditch the attitude.

Frankly, I hope to die before I need the (mostly) wildly expensive, intrusive tech stuff, which probably won't work right anyway. I say a big "No, thanks!" to being monitored.


Re: Using a walker to shop for groceries. Like you, I tried the store's cart for a while but the walker is better for me now. I didn't like having to climb in and out of it to reach an upper shelf or produce at the back of a display.

I found a light weight (15#) one with a seat and back rest that allows me to sit down when I need to while waiting in lines anywhere. It has a fabric container under the seat for purse, glasses, water, etc that I really like. On good days I just put a store basket on the seat. On weary days I hang a double grocery bag or two on the handles and it works for me. In stores with no carry out help my purchases can ride in my walker ! :-) I can put it in the rear of my older CRV alone. It has been a true blessing when I am away from home. A friend likes one that folds, and so there are many types for you to consider. A folding type is easier to get in the passenger seat if you prefer.
I hope this helps.

I don't know - a robot might be good company. Especially if it had an Off button.

I actively resist the invasion of my privacy any way I can and will continue to do so. Even though it’s mostly a losing battle, I feel better making the effort. I am also retaining the right to take a few risks with my life. If doing so at my age, being of sound mind, and it results in unwanted results — that’s the risk I’m willing to take. I pay title or no attention to those med commercials, the pitches for all those mind/memory enhancers, but occasionally they can be entertaining for a laugh or two.

Hi Ronni - don't know if you have seen this report from the UK but this sounds like seriously useful hi-tech
Robo-trousers that help people stand up, walk upstairs and get out and about are being designed by British scientists in a government-funded scheme to help the elderly and disabled stay mobile.

The University of Bristol is developing "smart trousers" with artificial muscles which give frail people bionic strength so they can live independently for longer.
It may also help me from groaning loudly when I stand up!!!

Elder tech (or SeniorTech), has now gone nostalgic. There is an app you can download that recreates Windows 95. For many of us, that was our first introduction to computers, blue screen and all.

Your post reminded me of a “Tech-Normal” experience my husband and I had while working during our 60’s with the American Foreign Service in Shenyang, China (close to the North Korean border). We were housed in a posh hotel for three years and were aware of being monitored by the Chinese both by audio and video at all times. We were comfortable with this because given the circumstances there was no expectation of privacy. However, when my husband’s 20-year-old daughter came to visit us for a month, she absolutely freaked out that someone could see her naked in our apartment. This is one example of what people can/will accept as “normal” regardless of whether they are young or old.

I can't help but wonder if those ads are aimed at our adult children that may be looking for solutions to Mommy's or Daddy's forgetfulness. That's fine if they have good intentions and aren't just looking for a way to ignore us.

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