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Nene Odonkor

CEO, Swix

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How can we make technology more friendly to people in their old age?

I have noticed that it is easy to relate with technology especially if you were born in the Internet or Computer age. But those who were born long before the age started struggle to use it to improve their lives. I think we need to come up with technological designs that take older people into consideration in order for them to reap the full benefit. But my question is, in what ways can this be achieved.

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    Jul 25 2011: I do not want to appear to be off the wall or impractical here but I really think that we need to work more diligently to bring virtual reality to the elderly. when their bodies are failing them and they are less mobile I think they represent a huge market and appropriate place to put our compassionate research. Why not allow the elderly with mobility issues to travel the world on their limited means through virtual reality. They can revisit the world of the past through the collection of photography and Google world view when it is recreated into a seamless past of places from their memory. With photos of people they can interact together with people who are no longer in their immediate sphere. With the wealth of photos world wide people can visit the places they could only dream about on their budgets from the comfort and safety of their arm chairs without carbon emissions. Virutal reality could be the way to manage the unhealthy eldlery with ongoing medical monitoring so that they could stay in their homes rather than in nursing homes.
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      Jul 25 2011: Good answer. I think we'd all like to fly around in virtual reality, not just the elderly; in fact I'm not sure they'd be so keen, but the kids would love it. I suggested to my grandmother once that she get the internet because she said she was bored, stuck at home; she looked horrified and wouldn't even consider it.
      How does virtual reality prevent the need for nursing home care?
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        Jul 26 2011: Hi Ian, I envision it as an adjunct to nursing home care or a tactic for delaying its need. Rather than simply warehouse elderly people I think putting them into a wired and sensitive environment, either through a garment or through sensors in their rooms would allow greater and better monitoring of their health status and allow them to be more fully cognitively and emotionally engaged with life on their own terms.
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          Jul 30 2011: Yes, I know staying in their own homes is important to many, if not most elderly people, so I think your ideas definitely have a future. I think the important design consideration would be to minimise intrusiveness.
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      Jul 26 2011: Debra - I really love this idea. My father's eyes are failing him and with each new tweak and advance in technology he becomes more disoriented. Simple tasks such as email and banking become very frustrating for him. It's really too bad... I think voice command is a good solution but don't really know where that technology is at in terms of the elderly.

      Interactive software is also potentially a good tool. Personally I can't wait for the day when virtual travel is possible. It may not be the same experience, but it may also be more exhilarating than the realities of travel (airports, jet lag, bad restaurants, etc.)
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          Jul 26 2011: Kate, Talking books are one of the great joys of my existence and I can see just fine! I love them when I am driving and when I am doing housework. For anyone who cannot see well or who cannot devote their vision to reading at that time, they are awesome!
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          Jul 27 2011: Kate, that's absolutely true...However, let me introduce you to my father. He is the posterboy for "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". He has gotten a free recorder and books on tape that he won't listen to, partly because he is so techologically challenged (and visually impaired) that he has trouble pushing buttons... He is also in something of a state of denial when it comes to his vision and aging in general.

          I got him a computer monitor that is 32" and increased the maginfication to 200% but his vision still plays tricks on him and even the slightest change in the desktop set up, email, etc. throws him for a loop. He'd truly be lost without his magnifying glass.

          I love talking books! I don't use them as often as I should (NPR radio usually does the trick in the car). At night I like listening to podcasts but fall asleep and then can for the life of me remember what I listend to the next morning!! So I don't want to waste books that way...

          But I look forward in a small way to a time in my life when my ears will do the "seeing" for me when it comes to books. That way I can save my eyes for beautiful things...
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          Jul 28 2011: I think this is another area for keen researchers. How do we work to help people who are declining to not only accept their losses but thrive in their newly limited lives? Jim, I give you kudos for trying but often a son cannot teach a father. There are issues of wanting to appear strong for your kid confounding the process- old roles get in the way. I think the most inspiring person for any learner is one who is just ahead of them in development (this holds true from child development for sure) and people who have overcome the obstacle we are trying to surmount. Is there someone in your father's sphere that could buddy up with him to show him how they conquored the challenges. Again, though, I admire you as a person for the capacity you always demonstrate to love the people in your life and your students as well.

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