Ever increasing technology is making its way into elder care. Much of it is wonderful. From talking medicine reminders to sensors that can tell if an elder has gotten out of bed, there is much good to be had from these advances.
An article from washingtonpost.com, titled, "High-tech sensors help seniors live independently," touts the wonders of technology. The article follows a woman who had several visits to the hospital for congestive heart failure. While the woman felt good, the motion sensors in her bed at the retirement home where she lived told a different story. They indicated that she wasn't sleeping well. The sensors were all over her room and bathroom, including doorways. They indicated restlessness, and allowed medical people to adjust her medications so she was healthier and functioned better.
These particular sensors are sold as something less intrusive than cameras, and I have to say that if I had to have something of that nature around, I would prefer these sensors. There's something creepy, to me, about a camera monitoring your every move, though obviously there are benefits for many people, and some people may find comfort in the fact that there's a camera monitoring them. We are all different in our feelings of privacy vs. security.
With all of us aging boomers, it's become such big business to develop technology to manage us that, according to the article, "for the first time the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas featured a special section devoted to high-tech senior living." We boomers are big business to these young techs who are finding ways that they say will prolong our independence.
An executive of a retirement center is quoted in the article as saying, "Sensors like ... ‘smart carpets' and other tracking devices will be the norm in both private homes and group settings within the next decade." Apparently, these will be considered cost saving devices because they require less human interaction.
And this is what bothers me. I'm all for things that allow seniors to get help when they need it, or something that can fine tune medications. What bothers me is the inference with many of these technical wonders that less human interaction will be needed.
Even with computer monitoring by families living apart from their elders, there is a need for hands-on care. The elder needs to have a live person to interact with. The elder needs a hug - a real one, not a virtual one. The elder needs human touch, actual dialog and the knowledge that someone cares enough to stop by the home, not just check the computer to make sure they haven't fallen.
I want to be clear that I'm not against any of these new technological advances. I just don't want hands-on human care to be considered an "extra perk." The article quoted above ends with this quote from Fredda Vladeck, executive director of the United Hospital Fund's Aging in Place Initiative. Vladeck says, "Technology does have a role to play...It's a tool, not the answer."
I couldn't agree more. We need a balance between technology and human connection. Neither needs to outweigh the other. However, I do feel we may have to have protections in place to make sure that our future elders, including many of us boomers, aren't in a situation where we have more connection with robots than we do human beings. That, to me is not progress, it's abuse.
Published On: February 03, 2009