Seniors and Technology

Google (and the U.S. Census) tells us that Maine is the oldest state in the nation. Our demographics aren’t working in our favor. Our senior population continues growing, unabated. So, what to do about it? Short of having more babies, there’s not much we can do.

Being part of a planning grant addressing seniors remaining in their homes in rural Maine, and now, employed visiting seniors a few times each week, I’ve continued to stay interested in the issue.

Of course, like just about every other problem or issue that’s raised in America, can you guess what the solution being proposed is for our aging population? Technology, of course. Because we know that technology solves every problem and makes our lives better and more enriching. {sarcasm}

Seniors prefer less technology, thank you!

Seniors prefer less technology, thank you!

I remain on an email list from my days managing the senior-specific grant. On a regular basis, I am the recipient of articles and information forwarded to me. I guess that passes for program management these days.

There was an article that arrived via the Gmail on Tuesday, courtesy of our “friends” at Kaiser Health. Live in rural Maine, or other rural parts of America—not to worry—just pick up the telephone. Who knew it was so easy to address aging in place? Except, these telephone and technology approaches don’t always work as well as they’re written up for the shills that are tasked to write these kinds of pro-medicine pieces.

As an aside, I receive daily emails from someone who aggregates freelance writing gigs. A day doesn’t pass when there isn’t at least one or two calls from some organization or agency looking for “experienced medical writers.” Lots of flacking happening on the medical front. Gotta’ get those puff pieces out there about technology supplanting our personal physicians.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been visiting a 73-year-old gentleman. It’s part of my new part-time gig I took to even out the ups and downs of freelancing. The man I visit would never present as having dementia. He’s vigorous and engaging, and when I drop by weekly, he wants me to help him with some project. We’ve been moving wood out of his garage, doing some landscaping tasks, or he has me drive him over to his storage unit with a load of his life he’s accumulated over the past 50 years. He’s trying to figure out what to keep, as he moves to a smaller place.

I’m enjoying my time with Mr. G because he’s fun to be with. I listen to his stories—like the one about how he’s “pissed at his doctor” for taking his license away from him. Oh, and Mr. G has a telemedical device in his kitchen that is supposed to monitor his pacemaker and he says “it never works.” When I asked him what happens when it doesn’t work, he told me “they send someone out to check on it (and me).”

Now we have Senator Angus King—a man that’s never seen a technological solution he didn’t want to adopt—pushing for more funding for telemedicine. Technology is always King’s best friend. Remember when he was governor of Maine? He’s the one who launched laptops in our schools. And how much smarter are our kids these days thanks to our former governor’s wisdom. {more sarcasm}

King, really a Democrat with an (I) next to his name is again going to the well of “the government will save us,” in this case, our seniors. Our aging population is an issue we better get a handle on, and probably should have been thinking about 25 years ago when something might have been done. The solution now—if there’s one forthcoming—isn’t emanating from the Beltway, coming from slicksters like King and his congressional cronies.

Angus King--not as independent as you think.

Angus King–not as independent as you think.

Seniors are the one group that don’t want more technology. They want to be treated with dignity and not have more gadgets introduced into their homes. So what’s driving the push to hook grandma and grandpa up with the latest tech gadget and downloadable app? Technoutopiansim is one possible reply.

Here’s another take I’m having on this.

Say your father or mother, living by themselves—or perhaps both of them are still alive. They’re in Maine and you’re living halfway across the country. Rather than reorder your lives in order to accommodate their needs and the changes everyone faces as they age, it’s much easier to think that you can Skype them, or have some telemedical device installed in their homes and “voila”!! Everything’s peachy again. Actually it’s not, but at lease you’ve assuaged your guilt.

I’m a big believer that we need more human interaction, not less. Too much of our lives are already spent dealing with technological solutions. Seniors, who have lived most of their lives in a world where face-to-face mattered, still prefer that—not a bunch of gadgets.

3 thoughts on “Seniors and Technology

  1. Jim, I find in my work as a librarian that there are many seniors wanting to learn technology. When I worked at Auburn Public Library I taught basic computer skills to older people in the computer lab or one-on-one. It is truly an advocacy tool….for them.

    However like anything if someone does not want to do something or learn something they have that choice.

    I agree gadgets are not the answer but opportunities where seniors, if they so choose to learn basic computer skills should be able to access them them for free.

    Otherwise how are they to get basic info? One of my worst nightmares has always been the phone book and trying to figure that out….of course a good place to call is always your local library….however we know how things are going with libraries as far as funding, staffing and believing that google is the answer to everything….

    Neil Gaiman says something along the lines of one can go to google and get 100,000 answers, your librarian can get you the right one….a combo of funded libraries, access to basic computer skills for seniors, and caring people is a win win win situation for today’s seniors in the area of connection.

  2. @Sally There are no grammar police at the JBE. We appreciate all comments and sharing of ideas.

    I think it’s great that seniors can access technology and acquire tech skills at their local libraries. They are valuable community resources.

    However, helping seniors access the Internet so they can log into Facebook is something entirely different than assessing whether a pacemaker is working properly via a telemedicine port that the client has difficulty with.

    The idea that seniors and more technology will solve the dilemma of an aging population and all the attendant issues that come with it is just more techno-utopian magical thinking and not something I’m comfortable advocating.

    Google is certainly not the answer to everything.

    Libraries, like many other public institutions are facing financial challenges–some are actually fighting for their lives, in Maine’s smaller communities, also.

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