Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
This was an interesting week if you want to think about living to 100. Evercare offered up its 2009 Evercare 100@100 Survey -- which included survey results from college seniors. Dr. Judith Rich was published in the Huffington Post with the question "Would You Want to Live to Be 100?" Both built on surveys that compared the lives of centenarians. In fact, from the Foundation for Health in Aging, "For people born in 1899, the odds of living to 100 were 400 to 1. However, for people born in 1980, the odds improved substantially to 87 to 1."
Should the old get out of the way to make more planet room? Dr. Rich observed that by 2030, 84% of those 65+ will have completed high school and 24% will have a bachelor's degree, compared with 15% with a college degree today. She noted that tomorrow's centernarians will be very comfortable with smart phones, Internet, and whatever else is around to enable them to access any information resources -- including being very demanding healthcare consumers. She worried that the planet cannot accomodate all of what she terms 'Geezerdom' and that perhaps it would make sense for the old to voluntarily 'get out of the way' to make room for everyone else.
Evercare's 'healthy and articulate' 100-year-olds are engaged in life now. Who would have thought that half of centenarians are familiar with Ninetendo's Wii Fit, 21 percent go online, with 10 percent using e-mail weekly, 5 percent watching TV shows, 4 percent downloading music, 3 percent use Twitter, and 2 percent would want an iPod if stranded on a desert island. Half are walking and hiking, more than half watch quiz shows, and 77% read to stimulate their minds. Both the centernarians and college seniors talk to friends and family to manage stress. Somewhat worrisome for our future, 63% of 100-year-olds said they 'do something to help others' as a secondary stress reliever, while 78% of college seniors report that they resort to 'me time' to manage stress.
The Judith Rich column includes advice for extending your life span. She quotes a laundry list of widely publicized advice on how to increase your lifespan (15 minutes a day laughing, not smoking, and having a positive outlook add more years). But that list doesn't include staying connected to community, doing something to help others, staying on top of current news and world events, or using a computer to stay connected to family. Let us remember that the Evercare interviewees are already 100 years old -- and this is what a surprising number of them do. Maybe if we want to live to 100, we should emulate them. This being a tech blog -- here's my twist:
Own a computer. I am still hearing that tired line from vendors who make proprietary (non-PC) products that 65+ customers are baffled by computers -- that's why their product isn't built on a PC. It's especially ironic to me that telehealth vendors send technically knowledgeable people into the home of 65+ to install monitoring units, will train them on the use of those products, but the PC is just too overwhelming a platform. Enough already. Ignoring the communication needs of your 'patients' by giving them single-purpose devices is, politely put, insensitive. Telehealth nurses tell me that patients appreciate monitoring because it shows that someone cares. Imagine their enthusiasm if someone showed them how to use a touch screen for email, sent them some e-mail and showed them how to join an online community for PatientsLikeMe?
Stay informed -- news and new ideas. Despite my fondness for them, we probably won't be reading paper newspapers too much longer -- too hard to distribute, too expensive to buy, and tough to get rid of when you're done reading. But even if you're still buying them, you can still set automatic e-mail feeds from newspaper companies, set Google Alerts for topics that interest you, and keep up on what's what in the world of trends and ideas.
Get exercise -- physical and brain. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you propel yourself out and about, get your heart going, and give your bones enough stress to keep them from thinning. If where you live means Wii Fit, so be it. And give your brain a workout while you're at it -- anything that involves stimulating, including training your brain to keep your driving skills, or learning something. See stay informed.
Buy smart phones - and keep them charged. No point in getting lost on our way to age 100 -- might as well get a BlackBerry or iPhone that gives you portable e-mail access, but where you can also be guided with directions, find a restaurant or gas station, chat with your grandchildren, and even use the phone to call 911 in an emergency. They're useless when the battery runs out, so manage a charging lifestyle habit early -- required for the computer too. See own a computer.
Find like-minded communities. The 'Lifespan' advice in Dr. Rich's column said that going to church regularly adds 3 years to life expectancy. If we broaden that advice to suggest finding like-minded people -- in person, online, on the phone -- engagement with others is the key. If we are like 50% of those over 65 today, we will have 2 chronic diseases -- even more important to find others who have figured out how best to manage them. See stay informed, buy a smart phone, own a computer.
Consider online medical services. As we near 100, there will be no reason to feel trapped in the house, unable to access medical advice. We can subscribe to online services (phone, e-mail, virtual visits) from companies like TelaDoc or American Well, or LiveNurse on a Jitterbug phone.
My thought -- being 100 in this scenario overcomes some of the physical isolation that can result from physical frailty (and losing your nearby friends and family). To me, that looks like a better deal than Dr. Rich's idea of checking out in order to free up space.