Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
Woohoo -- Internet usage is up. Those of us who are technology enthusiasts get all excited with this sort of data (from Pew Research, January, 2009): "The biggest increase in internet use since 2005 can be seen in the 70-75 year-old age group. While just over one-fourth (26%) of 70-75 year olds were online in 2005, 45% of that age group is currently online." And 24% of those age 75-84 are online. And of course, there's my favorite broadband statistic about broadband access among 65+ rising from 19% in 2008 to 30% in 2009.
Even centenarians read e-mail and web surfing keeps the aging brain active. The Evercare survey of 100 healthy hundred-year-olds could really look like a trend to technology optimists like me. You may remember that 19 percent of responders use cell phones and 7% were using e-mail. And of course we know (studies show this through age 76) that surfing the web is good for the aging brain. But let's not confuse technology optimism with reality. Questions in my mind remain about the oldest among us:
For the oldest, the profile of receptiveness and access appears narrow. So I wonder. Today, if you have technology advocacy in senior housing AND social work AND seniors are receptive AND family members are aware and interested AND a payer can be found, then 85-and-older individuals may encounter the risk avoidance of home monitoring systems. Similarly, access to a computer and the internet is constrained by awareness, financial capability, availability of tech support, and, not least, adequate training.
Solutions -- more needed. Here are a few thoughts. I would like to see large corporate users of PCs examine their technology refresh cycles (typically 3 years) and donate their computers to senior centers. I would like to see volunteer networks of tech-smart individuals (including retirees) formed into well-organized clusters around neighborhood senior housing, homecare organizations and senior centers. AARP could be that organizing entity, although its center of age gravity appears headed downward.
I would like to see computer vendors like HP, Microsoft, Dell, IBM, follow the example of Verizon and HopeLine (for victims of domestic violence): donate technology to senior centers, but go one step further -- and donate train-the-trainer time and fund videos of training that can be circulated. Pay for public service advertising that could get the attention of adult children. Remember that 1 out of 2 baby boomers has at least one living parent. The odds are good that this parent may be one of the 5.3 million age 85 or older, the fastest growing age segment.