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back to article Who's going to look after the computers that look after our parents?

How do you see aging? Is it a second childhood in the Golden Girls/Last of the Summer Wine mould? Or do you imagine it more like Logan’s Run, with the years being ticked down in silicon before you’re permanently retired? When I'm 65: Who will drive me to the beach? If some of the biggest tech vendors have their way, it’ll be …

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Me, I suppose

After all, I already look after my parents' computers.

It'll just be another part of looking after my parents when that time comes.

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Social, not technical changes

People "invented" cities because they are efficient. You get more done per person in a city, there is a greater density of people and a greater density of business and a greater density of innovation. There is also a shorter distance to travel to get what you need (which is just as well, as traveling in a city is pure hell).

So what do the elderly need? Yup! their own cities. But cities, or more likely communities of a few hundred or thousand homes, that are designed just for them. Ones that don't have cracked and uneven paving slabs. Ones that don't need the infrastructure of jobs and schools to be built as well. Ones where the supermarkets don't have aisles and aisles full of babies' nappies and cosmetics - but instead have products and layouts tailored to the wants and needs of the over-70's. And of a scale where it won't take all day to get from one end to the other. And cities that don't have steps, stairs, slopes or a maze of twisty little passages, all the same. Possibly even having the streets colour-coded and homes and shops with entrance doors that don't need Harlequins' scrum to push open, oversized signage and house numbers and are visible from the road for those with less than 20-20 vision (or even proximity detectors that announce the address as you approach.

Provided you can persuade the elderly to vacate their 3-bed detached houses in the 'burbs (that are now worth £1million apiece) without the stigma of "going into a home" or losing their independence, a properly designed community would allow all their carers, supervisors, specialised medical facilities, media and social centres to be focussed locally, suppliers and service to be adjacent and with others around them with similar interests, common problems and outlooks the place could thrive.

The only difficulty would be for those outside the community, who'd have to find someone else to act as babysitters.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Social, not technical changes

"Provided you can persuade the elderly to vacate their 3-bed detached houses"

This was exactly the crux of the matter for my disabled mother who refused to leave the family home (at least it wa a bungalow, and therefore somewhat wheelchair friendly). Her main concern about moving to any form of supported living environment? That they may not have cable TV, or broadband internet with wifi so that she could stay in touch with her family via Skype and email, shop on-line and order repeat prescriptions on the internet. So she put up with relative isolation rather than moving to a more suitable environment where she could have chosen to initiate contact rather than wait for visitors rather than lose the independence to carry out certain tasks with the aid of technology. Some more forward looking supported living settings do make a point of features like "wifi throughout", but many still seem to be catering for my grandparents. For those born at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries TV was a novelty and luxury and the (land-line) telephone an intrusion on privacy, rather than those born mid-20th century who expect to be connected and make use of technology ... and very shortly these will be the target age-group.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Social, not technical changes

Well, I suspect a major force behind settlements was mutual protection from others and the elements as well as the possibility of gaining from the varied abilities of each other more easily : perhaps one was good at growing things, another better at herding or hunting and another at building shelter or making tools.

But I find the idea of extrapolating this to age-segregated or need-segregated housing to be horrifying. One of the increasing problems, societally, seems to be that the elderly and the fit, able, young, middle-aged are all less involved with each other and have less understanding, tolerance or respect for each other. It is actually fairly hard for even fit and active retired people to find something useful and interesting or worthwhile to do, cutting them off from the broader society and family. We are putting lots of effort into integrating the disabled, young offenders and so on into society. A similr attitude is needed towards older people too. Activity and social life are needed to promote a healthy and active ageing. The idea that cunning technologists will produce some sort of futuristic set of answers and that this would be enough is clearly misplaced.

Technology can certainly be a help, e.g. as the carers may not themselves be so fit, mechanical-technical assistance will become ever more important. But they will never be the answer. Anyone reading this forum and over 40 should start thinking hard. Look around: one can see 70 year olds still doing impressive times running, mountain walking, creating wonderful gardens, visiting galleries, travelling and one can see forty-year olds out-of-breath just looking at a stair case, never reading a book and basically no life outside work, television or computer and the pub. Meanwhile, children are growing up in a society that believes it must cater for them as if they are another species, with the minimum of contact outside the own age-group (likewise for "young adults", families and so on).

For all of our sakes, this has got to change, regardless of the technological possibilities. Herding the elderly or the disabled or families or singles into ghettoes in order to provide some ideal environment for their needs would be counter-productive, wasteful and ignore the great diversity across all ages.

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Re: Social, not technical changes

We live in a different country from my parents, so our kids (now 18-22) don't have the experience of dealing with older people.

A few months back my older son went on an internship to a city where we have an elderly friend. He went to visit her out of obligation the first time, but ended up going back to see her many times and told us: "Old people are so interesting!".

And they are. Screw the stupid stereotypes of leaky bladders and nappies. Old people had experiences that you can learn from if you just make them a cup of tea, STFU and listen.

This old dear had grown up in India, she had been evacuated from Singapore a few days before the Japanese "liberated" it. She had been bombed. She had lived in a little cottage growing her own food (and making a bit of money on the side selling surplus rabbits and eggs) with no lights etc for about a year.

Beats hanging out on Twitter.

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Re: Social, not technical changes

"So what do the elderly need? Yup! their own cities. But cities, or more likely communities of a few hundred or thousand homes, that are designed just for them. Ones that don't have cracked and uneven paving slabs. Ones that don't need the infrastructure of jobs and schools to be built as well. Ones where the supermarkets don't have aisles and aisles full of babies' nappies and cosmetics - but instead have products and layouts tailored to the wants and needs of the over-70's. And of a scale where it won't take all day to get from one end to the other. And cities that don't have steps, stairs, slopes or a maze of twisty little passages, all the same. Possibly even having the streets colour-coded and homes and shops with entrance doors that don't need Harlequins' scrum to push open, oversized signage and house numbers and are visible from the road for those with less than 20-20 vision (or even proximity detectors that announce the address as you approach."

I'm 31, and I'd pay really good money to live in such a city. Especially if it came with a "no children because our infrastructure doesn't support them" rule. Add some mountains in the background and a bunch of trees/forest for visual happy and dear me, you've described my personal idea of a Utopia*.

*Yes, for me, San Francisco actually is hell.

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Re: Social, not technical changes

"Herding the elderly or the disabled or families or singles into ghettoes in order to provide some ideal environment for their needs would be counter-productive, wasteful and ignore the great diversity across all ages."

I think you've got it backwards. If we just isolated "families with children" into their own communities and left the rest of us the hell alone, life would be grand. How much infrastructure is just there to support screeching sprog?

I'd pay good money to live in an adult-only and adult-oriented community. Sprog are expensive, noisy, require massive upkeep and maintenance and all manner of unholy rights-limitation occurs in the name of protecting them.

Give me a community where "think of the children" is met with a blank stare and "why?" I don't want to think of the children. I care nothing for sprog and have no intention of having any. Sprog should be raised in their little sprogified bubble cities until such a time as the NIMBYs decide they are old enough to take care of themselves. Then they can spend a few years in a halfway home known as "post-secondary" before being released into the real world of cities designed exclusively for adults. If they choose to return to hell (I.E. Sprogtown) in order to crank out a wailing fleshbag of their very own, that's their choice. The rest of us can live in peace and never, ever, "think of the children" again.

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Nice to see a pic of my mother's Topro walker in the article.

She does her online shopping by having my retired brother (who only learned Internet 10 years ago) sit next her finding and ordering things.

She has a portable cube radio for listening to some foreign radio stations. It has no buttons or settings and works by turning the whole cube round.

What a pity though that the BBC cannot be ***sed to come up with a tablet iPlayer that's usable by the per-internet generation over 80s.

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Why not work?

Pete2 - I like your suggestion.

Nifty - "cube radio?" I see a gob of "cube radio", but didn't see one that works by turning it. Link? Might be handy for 89 yr Mother.

What's left out of these ageing-boomer discussions is: Sure, you're 69, you're not going to be able to pull the hours of 30, 40 years before. But does that mean you can't do any useful work? I think not. Well, I hope not, anyway.

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Re: Why not work?

The thing about having local employment is that it pushes up property prices. If there are jobs, people will move to the area to take them. If there are no jobs, house prices drop - or become affordable, if you prefer that description.

However, there *will* be work available: the community will create the demand. It just won't be heavy industry. For example, there will be demand for a lot of caring professions: ones that are not traditionally very highly paid. So by making these communities in otherwise remote locations, those carers who chose to move to the area won't be priced out by higher-paid employees who would pay more to buy or rent in the area.

There is also a lot of scope to create brand-new sorts of jobs. Again, specifically tailored to the needs of the communities. As well as the usual sorts of services: gardeners, plumbers, decorators, meal deliveries that the elderly are less likely to "DIY", there may be a need for a "nice young man" (!!!) sort of job. One where a person (not necessarily a man) could pop over and in exchange for a couple of quid, could open that jar, get a box off the top of the wardrobe or do "that thing with the computer to make it work again". Do 40 or 50 of those 1 minute, unskilled, tasks in a day could be a nice little earner in a low pay/low cost location. Those sorts of jobs are only viable if there is sufficient demand for the services (or products) offered. In traditional mixed-population towns and cites there isn't the density of individuals needing them to make those tailored jobs attractive. But in a specific community of elderly people, providing it is large enough, a "nice young man" could make a living from it.

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Re: Why not work?

"The thing about having local employment is that it pushes up property prices. If there are jobs, people will move to the area to take them. If there are no jobs, house prices drop - or become affordable, if you prefer that description."

I have an ADSL connection and can reroute through the LTE in my phone whenever I want. Hence there are innumerable "jobs" available from wherever I choose to be. Telecommuting, it's a thing. And unless there are 8 figures involved, I'm never working an office job again.

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Old people? What old people?

Seeing as the Singularity is only 30 years away, 40 years tops, I look forward to admiring the nubile bronzed bodies of the today's septuagenarians when I am one.

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Anonymous Coward

Life expectancy after retirement age

"In 1981, average life expectancy after retirement age was 14 years for men and just over 22 for women. By 2031, it will have shot up to just under 23 years for men, and will be around 25 for women."

Isn't retirement age going up faster than life expectancy?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Life expectancy after retirement age

I'm not so sure.

Those that don't die early seem to be living for longer, but I've lost so many friends in their 50s and 60s over the last few years that I am not convinced generations younger than those that are now becoming pensioners are living longer at all.

Half expecting the "pensions timebomb" to not go off and in a few years when we all have to work until 70, we will find everyone is actually dropping like flies before then, leaving those in the pension industry that don't die early with all our dosh.

.

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FAIL

money and such...

The problem with a lot of these problems it comes down to money.

Tech is largely designed for those that a) can see b) under stand the tech c) can PAY.

The tech for disabled people is unimpressive, and seriously needs some focus.

I don't trust the Govts to not think up cunning ways to cheat old folks out of their homes to pay to lower the Govts bills.

P.

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Re: money and such...

Tech follows the money.

The reason disabled tech is so bad is that the customer is government health schemes/insurance companies. once there are more old people and they have more money than teenagers then Apple/Nike/etc are going to focus on them

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The opportunity for technology to make elderly care so much better is dazzling. Technology can make elderly care much more dignified and greatly increase quality of life. The 'geriatric physician' of the future (let's say 2033) will be a trained (cognitive) psychologist as treatment choices will be made by the system not by a human being.

Lots of time will be freed up to focus on the mental well-being of patients, because of the 'dementia epidemic' we sometimes forget there are also many elderly with clear minds but failing bodies. To be surrounded by people who are skilled in making you feel you are surrounded by people who care about you and how you are doing is an invaluable gift.

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