Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
When you read about tech and older adults, ask if it is appropriate to the task. Does it fit the problem being addressed? Do caregiving robots make sense? Is the cost such that everyone except the buyers would raise their eyebrows? Everyone admires a pioneer, the organization that will respond to the idea and the sales pitch for putting a few $6000 robots into the homes of children recovering from surgery, for example, so that the children won’t have to come to the hospital for the doctor to see how their recovery is progressing. Apparently no one thought to give the family a Netbook with camera, which would accomplish the same video viewing purpose – for $250.
For a dementia patient, hand them a pricy robotic seal? The $6000 Paro therapy seal is supposed to alleviate loneliness among institutionalized elderly with dementia. We are so lucky, now it has now being brought into the US into some nursing homes. And it's good news, I guess, that it is now down to $5000. Likely too, that hospitals or nursing homes foot the bill, no doubt allocated to some special grant-funded corner of the budget for experimental therapies. A stuffed animal cat or dog with a good face and soft fur can be amazingly intriguing for $20. Visit a memory care unit – see for yourself.
It's not just robots – well-meaning tech purchases can be mismatches to problems. We are at a stage where devices are evolving so quickly – what would seemed like a good investment last year is eclipsed by devices that are cheaper, faster, smaller, lighter, easier to set up. Were the Virtual Senior Center to be launched this year, for example, the price of today’s refurbished laptop enabling a homebound senior to link into another location has dropped down below $150 (with a $30/month 2-year data plan) for the senior. And even a refurbished HP TouchSmart can now be bought for less than $500.
Develop a recycle-to-next-group plan when buying tech for senior organizations. Today, at the pace at which tech prices are dropping, if for whatever reason one must purchase new at top dollar versus lease, why not buy with a recycle-to-next-group plan from the start? Your organization acquires PCs (or tablets or MACs) for a common area within a CCRC. At the same time, identify the next group – maybe the local senior center training room, maybe a community center -- that will buy them from you at a discount that represents their depreciated value. Even better, community service organizations don't have to be first in the chain. They can acquire tech from law or investment firms or other organizations that turn technology very quickly and might gain a tax benefit from a donation.