Monday, March 23, 2009

Getting Out for Exercise

7/19/08: I have just been reading Anne Morrow Lindberg's book, A Gift from the Sea, which addresses images of life in relation to objects from the sea. Among the images that she develops is that of the second half of life as a time of flowering in the dimensions that were set aside during the earlier part of life. In general, key visions for aging people also include (1) active, independent, healthy, involved lives as members of families, communities, and perhaps of the larger society along with (2) time and space alone or with a loved one in a more quiet or contemplative mode yet still safe through connection with others who care.

Technology done right can support all of these visions. There are many examples already of technologies that have been done “right enough” to achieve this. One of the recent Internet trends is people in their seventies and eighties using the Internet for extensive communicating with each other. Using the Internet at one’s computer at home also means that one need not drive (or be driven) to the library for information. (This in turn also saves gas and reduces global warming!) That is, inexpensive telephone and Internet communications leads to greater connectivity. Personal emergency response systems (PERS), although far from perfect, have fostered a greater sense of security among older people. Home-based monitoring leverages caregiver effort, provides more useful blood pressure measurements, and makes it easier for medical professionals to track the condition of elderly patients without their having to travel too often to the doctor’s office. Some Japanese companies are developing and marketing ever more sophisticated robots that perform simple caregiving tasks. Work is being done to make the robots seem as human as possible, even responding with appropriate “facial expressions,” so that elderly people can feel a degree of companionship from them.

In this forum, we can discuss our experiences and thoughts about each of these and many more approaches. Some of this may include critiques about what works, what doesn’t, and why. We can also share about how we would like to be living, how we would like to be using technology, and what might be useful in the future. Beyond information about the technology itself, I hope we will discuss, or perhaps even emphasize, the human dimensions.

Although technology is important for enablement, particularly in a world with a shortage of nurses and other caregivers, it is not the entire solution. It also needs to be molded and dominated by human concerns and human values. Technology is primarily useful to the extent that it addresses these human needs. Well-designed technology can enable us in what we want to do, where we want to explore and grow, in helping us to protect and provide for ourselves and others. It helps us to lead involved, productive lives while mitigating the negative effects of aging. It needs to be enabling, reliable, mostly unobtrusive. It needs to preserve independence, privacy, and dignity. Technology serves preferably in a supporting, not a primary role. Well designed technology can facilitate social interaction while minimizing alienation and isolation. It can enable people without confining them, provide support without getting in the way. What makes technology this way for you? What makes it not this way for you?

For my first contribution, I am thinking that I might write something about one of the following three areas of recent experience.
1. Riding a bicycle after age 60.
2. Dealing with winter cold, which is more tricky for the elderly than for the young.
3. Electronic devices to promote health and safety.
4. Using the Internet, a treasure trove of information and connectivity. I would appreciate your comments about which would be most interesting to you. Perhaps even more, I will be interested to read your own thoughts on these and other subjects of interest to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment