Technology for Older People

In the last posting we repeated the story of a 95 year old Spanish surfer: a sign that ageing doesn’t mean we are as clueless in the face of the technological revolution as some imagine. However, conscious of the effortless wizardry of the young, one is hardly brimful with confidence about the gadgetry world we now live in. When I plucked up courage and bought my first (and only) mobile phone I had no hesitation in asking for something cheap and something simple. Courteously but with a faint whiff of superiority the assistant responded accordingly.

A recent article in the Guardian newspaper argues that the technologies a lot of older people really need are much more basic. ‘If you’ve ever tried to open a jar when it hurts your hands to squeeze the sides, you know the problem someone with arthritis has’. So there is this new term -Assistive Technology – which has a dual purpose. First, to make existing technology more workable for older people. Secondly, to give practical support for older people which can ease the difficulty of performing what at one time were easy tasks.

Already older people and those with disabilities in the U.K are able to look after themselves in their own homes longer than otherwise might be possible, with help from Social Services and the National Health Service. The Audit Commission have recently issued a report which confirms this. ‘New assistive technology can play a vital role in supporting the ways in which millions of older or disabled people can maintain or regain their independence. It also has the potential to modernise the way in which many aspects of health and social care are currently delivered…’ So Assistive Technology is a new name for an established system, but, through under-funding, one which doesn’t always work and which needs to be developed.

The British charity Help the Aged has made assistive technology one of their concerns.

Similarly The New Technology in Elderly Care Project (NTEC) is evaluating new technology aids and devices for older people who live in the community, in hospitals, residential and nursing homes – such as video monitoring systems, electronic tagging, electronic tracking, bed monitors and fall detectors.

Lots of organizations seem to be talking about this. They need to collaborate so that the situation of people living longer can be met, before it arrives.