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Worries about later life - and are there solutions in technology?

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GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 19-Oct-12 14:19:01

With our very nice friends at the Nominet Trust, we're asking what are gransnetters' big worries about the future? Being ill, needing care, getting lonely etc? (Yes, I know, bundle of laughs, but there is an upside....)

We're also asking how technology has helped you, not necessarily with anything to do with getting older, which we're all doing, but just how it's improved your life.

And ALSO (need a brew after all this) what technology could do better? In an ideal world, what would you like to be able to do on your phone? Are there some things you hate about your computer? Can you see technology helping with the issues our generation is going to face? Or is it all for young people?
[provocative emoticon]

Mamie Fri 19-Oct-12 15:01:28

One thing that I think makes a huge difference is having Skype through a camera on the television set. This means that instead of sitting in front of a computer, you can interact with people from your sitting room. We are able to do this with one set of grandchildren and it means we can really be a part of their everyday lives.
I think in old age and infirmity it could help with isolation, but also give a means of interaction with doctors, social workers, friends, family etc. So high quality wireless broadband everywhere, hardwired into the home and video links via television screens is my first suggestion. When I used to go on ICT blue sky events we used to talk about things like clothing that could detect illness, toilets that could analyse deposits and so on. Not sure how far any of this has got now.

absentgrana Sat 20-Oct-12 09:59:06

Dementia is probably my greatest fear and I don't think technology will be able to do much about it in terms of making it more tolerable, but I suppose it could make me safer. No doubt some sort of sat nav combined with an alarm system would probably stop me wandering out in my pyjamas to buy bananas at three o'clock in the morning. I'm uncertain about whether I would want to be kept safe in that condition.

FlicketyB Sat 20-Oct-12 10:53:26

My biggest concern is that technology will be seen as an answer to providing proper home care for incapacitated older people.

When I worked as a Home Visitor for Age Concern (now Age UK) one of the most common problems for the house bound was lonliness. Lonliness goes beyond just speaking with people, that can be done by phone or even skype. It is having the physical presence of another human being close by, of physical contact even if it is just a hand shake. One of the deleterous effects of Social Services reducing the time and money they will pay for carers making home visits is that carers no longer build a relationship with the people they visit, in and out in 15 minutes, and different carers come in every day so there is no continuity.

If technology is used to cut down even this contact, machines that automatically issue one dose of medication each day, cctv to monitor people at home life for the housebound, if they do not have family and friends to visit frequently will become evenmore lonely.

Ariadne Sat 20-Oct-12 16:33:34

I too worry about dementia. And I suppose technology could, as absent suggests, keep me safe if I succumbed. I can see online shopping being a great benefit if I keep my marbles but lose some agility(agility -moi smile)

Technology is something I count as one great blessing. I am pretty conversant with most of it - can install programs etc, and try to keep as up to date as possible. During the recent house move, I have found Internet shopping (which I do a lot) absolutely invaluable for all sorts of things which in earlier times would have meant going out again and again and traipsing round shops looking for things.

I love the ease and speed, and cheapness of texting too.

But I agree that technology should be an adjunct to care, not a replacement!

mrshat Sat 20-Oct-12 17:13:23

All of the above!

FlicketyB Sat 20-Oct-12 18:32:55

I doubt it technology could do much for people with dementia, wandering from the house may be, but what they do in the house you will be able to watch but not reach in time to stop. For a short while I had to deal with two relatives with dementia living at home. Without being unkind or demeaning, it was like herding cats. My aunt, just out of hospital, was meant to stay in bed until the carer could help her out, get dressed and get her downstairs, but she was unable to understand/remember this so would try and get out of bed and her husband, for the same reasons would help her. Inevitable the carer would arrive to find her helpless on the floor and have to call in paramedics. They were the same about trying to do things in the kitchen, climb the stairs unaided. Within a week we had to move them to a care home.

Because we refer to dementia as memory loss many people think that all that is needed to help people is something to jog their memory, dole pills out once a day etc but with the loss of memory goes completely irrational mental processes that vary from person to person and is also dependent on the type of dementia. The answer to dementia is not technology it is proper personal care.

Mamie Sat 20-Oct-12 19:31:02

Of course you are right that technology isn't the answer for dementia, FlicketyB; it needs personal care and anything that technology can do to support that is a bonus. There are lots of ways technology can help though, with a whole range of issues. I used to work in the field of using ICT to support pupils with special educational needs, including physical disability. It is an extraordinarily powerful force in improving people's lives, but it needs to be carefully thought through and used to enhance, not replace human contact.

FlicketyB Sat 20-Oct-12 21:17:13

I have no doubt that technology can help older people particularly when the problem is physical rather than mental but I think it is to easy to jump to conclusions that technology will provide the anwers when actually while it solves one set of problems it produces others and it worries me when technology is seen as a replacement for human contact.

Ariadne Sun 21-Oct-12 08:13:55

I never for a moment thought that technology was the answer; I was musing. Having had similar experiences as Flickety with my father, I can see that nothing but good care can deal with the complete irrationality of a dementia patient. A tracking system might have helped us find him when he wandered off, maybe, but usually it was a kind person who brought him home.

In other areas, though, it is communication technology that will be even more of a blessing as we age. We already have voice activated phones etc, we can deal with finance online, there is now FaceTime as well as Skype - who knows what IT people will come up with next?

Mamie Sun 21-Oct-12 08:30:52

I would add in the wii for keeping fit, improving balance and strength, helping reaction time, all in the comfort of my home.

Lilygran Sun 21-Oct-12 08:31:33

I agree with what others have said. Dementia is the big fear, for oneself or others. Communication technology can help with isolation as well as with practical things like shopping. Dishwashers, washing machines etc make housework less of a demand on physical strength and stamina. Aids can help with physical care, getting around, hearing and eyesight. I can't see at the moment how advances in technology are doing anything for dementia in the later stages. You can keep an eye on elderly relatives through technology and they can have all the kinds of aids to living but there's nothing to help when they reach the stage of not being able to use them whether through physical or mental decline.

Jodi Sun 21-Oct-12 08:42:03

All my groceries, clothes, drugs (prescription of course) kitchenware, etc, ordered online and delivered to the door. Virtual friends. Downloaded music and films. Supercool invalid buggies. Solar panels and mini windmills attached to my roof to cut my power bills. Library closed so bought my Kindle. Roomba cleans my carpets and now a robot to wash my floors. Can self diagnose via Google. Home BP, glucose and cholesterol kits. Pacemakers, artificial hips, knees, fingers.
We have the technology we can rebuild you. Skype, e phones, iPads, knee pads.
Just plug me in and recharge me. grin

Joan1 Sun 21-Oct-12 16:12:26

lol Jodi, smile

I don`t know what i would without my pc and skype, my daughter lives on a Greek island

how about skype + a hologram of the person you are speaking to, to make you feel they are actually you

Mamie Sun 21-Oct-12 17:43:14

Brilliant Jodi. grin

Granny23 Mon 22-Oct-12 01:28:34

Flickety said 'while it solves one set of problems it produces others' to which I would add 'particularly when it breaks down'. We are just back from a weekend away which threw up some interesting challenges e.g. a multi storey car park where the get a ticket machine was 'out of order' on the top, 10th floor, necessitating a traffic dodging descent to 9th floor only to discover that machine wanted £8.20 in coin only (no 10p or 5p, no notes, no cards accepted, although apparently you could pay with a mobile phone - but not mine) so back up through the traffic to empty DH's pockets and find sufficient change (just) back down again and it did not like our only 20p until a young man advised me to lick it (yuck) and it worked. In town, our SatNav sent us in circles back to where we started because it could not cope with a temporary diversion. Found a cashline machine which had no cash and had to find another. No mobile reception in our room at the hotel, where the fancy coffee machine had broken, was fixed, broke down again, so three days of sachets of instant coffee and flask jugs of hot water. Asked at hotel if they could convert £20 note to £1 coins (for the car park) but they could only open the till if someone bought something. We were fine but other guests were complaining that the swipe cards for their rooms would not work. They were told that this was because they had put them in a pocket or handbag beside a mobile phone which allegedly scrambles the swipe card??

Just think of all the technology, designed to make life easier, which instead only serves to make life more difficult when it fdoes not work. Factor in someone who is elderly, confused or has failed to master the latest advances and simple tasks become impossible. I have no credit card of my own because I have no credit rating - not because I am feckless but because I have saved up in advance to buy major purchases. Thankfully, I have a 2nd card on my DH's account and can use that for transactions eg. hotel bookings, where only a credit card will do. Soon cheques are to be phased out. What are elderly people , who have never used credit/debit cards to do then? It is sometimes true that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. All of us on Gransnet are computer literate, but out there there are thousands of grans/grandads who are not. I have never sent a text. I have been shown what to do but even with glasses I can hardly read the small digital print and arthritic fingers mean I am clumsy with the small buttons and I am only 66!

Nowadays a power cut effectively disables us all - No TV, No Computer, No cooking facilities, No heating, No charging of mobiles, etc. No petrol pumps, No kettle. Shops have to close because tills won't work. Please, please do not entrust the care of vulnerable people to the mercy of all too fallible technology.

Mamie Mon 22-Oct-12 09:24:46

I think what all of this says is that you must have the right people involved in the implementation of this. One of the things we learnt when we were developing ICT for pupils with special needs in the eighties and nineties is that you must start from the need and adapt the tecnology to suit the person. We also learnt that it is not by any means the most complicated or sophisticated technology which is always the best. It seems to me that our generation, who do have experience of technology, needs to engage with this agenda and make sure that it is based on what helps people, not run by technocrats with bright ideas or people who want to cut costs as their first priority.

Lilygran Mon 22-Oct-12 10:11:00

Granny23 has pointed out how technology can actually make things worse if we are dependent on it and it breaks down or if we can't make it work or stop being able to. I saw a cartoon the other day which showed an older woman introducing a young man to another older woman with the words, 'This is Jason. He opens my bottles for me'. Sometimes there's no substitute for another human being!

Grandpatom Mon 22-Oct-12 10:30:05

Would like to tap into this. We have just started Eastbourne Designed for All, a campaign to persuade local businesses to design their products and services around the researched needs of older or disabled people. We need to know what these needs are. www.eastbournedesignedforall.co.uk

Libmoggy Mon 22-Oct-12 10:37:05

I agree about Skype and online shopping and use both. However, my greatest worry is about ending up lying in my own faeces in a non-privatised hospital surrounded by callous nurses. I don't think that technology can do much about that

Mamie Mon 22-Oct-12 10:47:43

Yes it is a problem when technology breaks down, but that isn't a reason for not having it. Cars break down, but I can't think that people would get rid of them, the electricity supply breaks down and causes immense hardship until it is restored, but I don't think we will go back to gas lamps.
Cars have got more reliable and technology gets more reliable all the time, even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes.

Lilygran Mon 22-Oct-12 11:09:41

It isn't a reason for not having it or for not making use of it, Mamie, I agree entirely. And as someone has already pointed out, the people posting on this forum are already doing so. But it isn't (yet) a complete answer and can actually further disadvantage people who can't make use of it.

Mamie Mon 22-Oct-12 11:35:40

I agree absolutely, which is why I was saying that you have to put people's needs and not technology at the heart of this. It is hard to believe now, but we did once have battles to fight (and not just financial ones) to get technology for children with special needs.
It is hard to imagine Stephen Hawking without his voice synthesiser now.

SusanJ Mon 22-Oct-12 16:45:23

I must say that I feel a lot less worried about old age now because of technology. If I think about how I would cope, for instance downsized to a small flat or room in a care home I only have to think of the digital technology that even now could replace my books, my TV, my games, my music, shopping, banking, magazines..I could go on.. and with the addition of some added social life! The social networks on the internet mean I need never be lonely and of course they enhance my face to face relationships. I find it much easier to keep up with friends because I feel I understand how they and their families are living in between and I would probably have lost contact with them without on line social networks. So the future is definitely a lot rosier...

glammanana Tue 23-Oct-12 11:26:30

I tend to think on the same lines as Mamie when new housing is built or supported housing revamped after tenants have moved out that internet/support systems should be built into the property,we have a system via our telephone line which works throughout the apartment so if there is a problem we press the button on the phone in either bedroom/lounge and help is at hand right away it does not mean that we are classed as having special needs etc it just gives family peace of mind that we are safe and sound.SusanJ makes a really good case for technology in the home as a great many people would be so lonely without their virtual friendships.

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