By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
Here is an interesting question, Jeff Zients commented as he was reading the question I had submitted to the 2015 White House Conference on Aging that was held on Monday in the East Room of the White House.
Jeff, who is with the National Economic Council, was moderating a panel discussion on “Technology and the Future of Aging.” I was using technology to participate in the conference. I was live steaming the conference on my laptop as I sat in my home office in Palatine, Illinois. Twitter was the vehicle I was able to use to send questions to the Conference.
The question that was selected for discussion was “will technology and in-home services reduce or increase isolation among seniors?”
As the panel members who responded to the question were involved in technology, their responses were what I expected. Technology will reduce isolation.
I certainly can see their point.
Nearly three years ago, we were celebrating my Mom’s 85th Birthday at her house in the Chicago area. We were gathered around the dining room table, interacting on Skype with our oldest daughter, our son-in-law and Grace, our first grandchild, who was born just six days earlier. They lived in the mountains of Colorado. My Mom was meeting her newest great grandchild for the first time via computer technology. What made the situation even more memorable is that while we were on Skype we received a text message that our middle daughter had just delivered our first grandson.
In our business, we partnered with Caremerge, a technology company based in Chicago, to develop a Family Engagement App. The App is designed to enhance relationships between residents, their loved ones and the staff at the senior living, assisted living and memory care communities we manage. Family members of residents can enjoy easy and secure access compliant with federal privacy laws to real-time updates and insights into their loved ones day-to-day activities. It doesn’t matter if the family member lives right down the street or in a distant country.
Gardant and Caremerge received a 2015 Assisted Living Federation of America Best of the Best Award for this program.
Residents of many of our communities can take advantage of the Dakim computerized brain fitness system.
Other technology such as Smart Shoes that incorporate sensors into the design to help improve balance and reduce falls certainly can help reduce isolation among older adults. I can’t help but think that if a person is more confident in their balance and less worried about falling they will be much more likely to get out of the house.
Later in the day, I had the opportunity to ask a couple of friends the same question. Their responses were much different. Both felt technology would likely increase social isolation, at least for their parents. In their opinion, their parents would use access to technology to further justify staying holed up in his home and her apartment.
Look at the impact that technology has had on younger people, they said.
Go into a restaurant today and take a look at a table of young people, my friends said. None of them are talking to each other. They are all focused on the technological devices they are holding in their hands.
Look at the problem we are seeing with obesity among those in our younger generations.
Won’t technology have the same impact on older adults, my friends wondered.
As a speaker was noted during the Conference on Aging, life can be good at any age as long as we stay active and engaged. More and more research is showing that social connectivity and engagement along with staying physically active are vital for healthy aging. Physical activity can reduce the risk and help in the management of chronic diseases.
What I heard leaves me with several more questions:
Do on-line interactions provide the same benefits as in-person interactions where there are opportunities for human touch?
Will older adults, their loved ones and their friends use technology to visit with each other more often or will it reduce the frequency of in-person visits?
What steps might need to be taken to ensure that technology does not negatively impact physical activity among older adults in the same way it has impacted younger generations?
In my next Blog, I will be sharing other observations of the White House Conference on Aging.
All affordable assisted living communities managed by Gardant Management Solutions are certified and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. All assisted living communities are licensed and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“Gardant Management Solutions is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.