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CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE REAL NEEDS OF OLDER PEOPLE?

woman sitting on a leather couch using a laptop
Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR OLDER PEOPLE

Elderly person using and iPad
to illustrate his capacity
Elderly man with iPad photo DvdTang

It is International Older People’s Day, and I wanted to highlight a few of the difficulties that older people and their families must contend with. This past year has seen the death of several older members of my family. This has been especially hard for our far-flung family, who have been scattered over the face of the globe. I know we are not the only family who has had to deal with this, as thousands of other immigrants will testify.

BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY

Elderly man with cup of tea with his community
Elderly man with cup of tea in his community. Photo dvdTang

Modern technology has been excellent in enabling families to remain connected, especially in times of trial. I have attended funeral services in South Africa, United Kingdom, and New Zealand while still here in the USA. Although this was such a boon, I still could not visit, hug, touch or say my own farewells. Distance, time, cost, and COVID protocols prevented that.

ELDER INCAPACITY DISADVANTAGES

Elderly woman reading her Bible, Can technology give spiritual direction?
Elderly woman reading her Bible. photo DvdTang

Yet there was also something else, my family member’s lack of capacity through dementia to engage with technology or even know who I was. Many older persons are frail and incapacitated in different ways. I was not able to attend my own mother’s funeral a few years back.  I had not been able to have a meaningful conversation with her for several years due to her lack of capacity to see, hear, or engage with even a phone call. When I said goodbye as I left the country, I knew it would be the last time I saw her and made my farewell as meaningful as possible.

INHUMANE IMMIGRATION POLICIES

Elderly lady enjoying an afternoon of arts and crafts
Arts and Crafts afternoon in Community. Photo DvdTang

This is the price our African Diaspora generation had had to pay when we were scattered after politics destroyed our home country and we no longer felt safe or could survive there. It is also the story I have heard from many other immigrants from other countries who have had to flee. They have had to leave the elderly behind, as their new countries make it nigh on impossible to bring an older person with them. They then have to survive in their new country and send funds back home to care for their elderly. Good care that can be bought to provide for our elderly cannot replace the loving family that left them behind.  These are some of the tough choices that must be made for survival in a disrupted world.

ACCESSIBILITY AND SAFETY IN THE DIGITIZED WORLD

Elderly lady taking a biscuit break in community
Enjoying a tea break during the Craft afternoon. photo DvdTang

How great if technology was affordable and easy to use and sufficient safety measures put in place to help the elderly remain connected to their families, even if they are elsewhere, but this just does not help at all when a person’s capacity has diminished. Families have to work so hard and such long hours to take care of themselves, there is often little time or energy left over to contact and chat with their elderly, leaving the void that scammers are aware of. Older people are also targets of scammers, knowing their vulnerability and loneliness. Older people can still contribute to the economy if they can continue working at a pace more suited to their capacity. Here is where the digital world can make a positive difference if older people can learn to thrive with their digital skills, communicate, and access help when required.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND IMMIGRATION POLICIES

happy elderly women sitting at table with coffee in a retirement home
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

What is the solution? Not more technology, but better immigration policies that allow families to stay together. Affordable housing with sufficient space for three generations to live together. Housing for life, built with adaptions that can assist in keeping both the elderly and the children safe during the parents’ workday. The cost of housing is so high that both people must work, even second jobs, leaving very little time for taking care of their elderly, which should have been a priority. Policies that are detrimental to family life, insufficient vacation time off, low wages. Lack of recognition for educational and professional status received in another country, expensive healthcare, just to name a few.

CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE BASIC HUMAN NEEDS?

people in airport, families can travel and immigrate togethertogether
Photo by Connor Danylenko on Pexels.com

Can technology provide the basic needs of all people? Will society thrive, and the elderly have their needs met by technology? Their primary need for care, safety, and security will be met by belonging to their families and neighborhoods. Technology can assist in that but not replace the personal touch and care that is needed to thrive. Technology does not have a value system; it is merely a tool. Until we value people, provide the care, they require and keep family units together by allowing the elderly to emigrate with their children. No technology will replace the family and neighborhood system of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself.’ For society and families to thrive, adequate and affordable housing with a balanced work/lifestyle and connected community is required.

SPIRITUAL LAWS

Old lady praying, technology cannot provide the spiritual connection people need
Old lady praying. Photo DvdTang

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2) To see what real community and specialized care for the elderly can look like visit Pilgrim Friend Society #UNIDOP2021

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7 thoughts on “CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE REAL NEEDS OF OLDER PEOPLE?”

  1. It was interesting that the old lady praying holds her hands exactly like I hold mine when praying. Making a cross with my thumbs. Even her other fingers are in the same place.

    1. Yes! Funny how expressive our hands can be. I was able to take pictures of the old peoples hands when I was managing the old age home. Not allowed to take photos of their faces.

  2. There is no easy answer to providing quality care for older people. It requires lots of funds and kindhearted people. That’s not to say those who don’t care for the elderly aren’t kind, it’s just that it takes special qualities and skills to meet the needs of the elderly.

    1. That is true. I managed an Assisted Living facility in the UK and it was the hardest job I ever did! Finding the right staff was one thing managing dementia was another, added to that the legilation and regulations!

  3. Thanks for this, Deryn. Distance is a huge issue today. Even when we live in the same country, thanks to COVID, we don’t see our families. And technology only goes so far.

    1. Travel really is so difficult now. Deciding to travel even in the same country, there are so many pros and cons to it, and the older you get the more difficult it becomes to navigate. Having a global family is really challenging.I am thankful for technology that makes communication possible, but cannont fill all the gaps.

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