According to a recent PEW Institute study 67% of those over the age of 65 use the internet, 40% use a smart phone and 32% use a tablet. With the oldest boomer turning 73 this coming new year, those percentages will certainly increase as work skills become life skills in connecting with others. Another statistic that would be interesting is how many boomers and seniors have already utilized the additional wonders of virtual medical visits and the growing number of VUI (Virtual User Interface) devices.
That last acronym is shorthand for anything that works by voice. Voice is our most natural form of communication. Many of us still scoff at the idea of talking into a shiny plastic cylinder even if it can remind us of important duties and events, answer questions hands free and provide a certain level of security. It can also be an antidote for social isolation and help individuals stick to a plan of care for medical issues. Some push forward with technology, others hold back.
The good news from the world of age wave tech is that these newer devices and applications can and will be be adapted for older users. In other words someone who has never used a computer, touched a smart phone or downloaded an app, will be able to have a connection to others. Privacy concerns are always in the forefront but that should be addressed as more time goes on.
What concerns me at this point in time is that use of voice and other digital technology not become another issue to divide seniors among themselves. We have the financial assets divide. I have my house paid off, you don’t. We think of ourselves in terms of physical fitness the – I am more able than you divide. Pickle ball was invented to make the younger set of oldsters feel more empowered after they can no longer handle tennis.
In terms of housing, it is becoming evident in senior retirement communities that some seniors do not want to be around other seniors who are more affected by age. Like we are not all fighting the current going downstream? Less mobile seniors are being rejected from some retirement communities because they require the assistance of walker or a wheelchair. This is part of the able-ism I brought up in my last blog. It is not just young people who treat disabled people or elders like the other, it is also some seniors who act like there is a contagion factor going on. On maybe ageism is so pervasive it is better to try to pass as not being old.
Accepting emerging technology as it becomes more user friendly and tight on privacy may afford us all an extra layer of social interaction. It is sad to read how in Japan with the world’s oldest population, they are resorting to plush covered robot seals to set up an antidote to the fact that by 2040, 40% of the population will live alone – mostly seniors. As home monitoring technology comes down in price and available at the local big box store, the idea of turning lights on/off with your voice as you go off to the bathroom in the middle of the night may seem like a great idea. Or maybe being in a special voice chat room of your own friends when driving gets tougher could take the edge off a lonely day (there is another idea for you Silicon Valley).
They are still coming up with more solutions for us. You would open a door for someone older than you. Why not think of helping someone who is less tech savvy get used to a little more tech in their lives. The rewards await us all.