Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
My Google blogger alerts have been blinking and beeping about the Virtual Dementia Tour, an offering from a non-profit called Second Wind Dreams. Profit from the sale of the kit (for professionals or individual caregivers) goes to programs that Second Wind Dreams sponsors -- a charity to boost focus and perception about residents in long-term care facilities. Sounds good. Nothing negative about the mission of Second Wind Dreams.The simulator kit, though, reminded me of the MIT AgeLab suit a young person can put on to 'experience' what it is like to feel old, under the theory that this may stimulate innovation among researchers.
So someone has got to say it, and I guess I am just grumpy enough to be the one. Putting goggles on, listening to a confusing tape, or struggling to move under a weighty age simulator suit -- these are the vehicles made for TV journalists, especially young ones -- who specialize in writing about a new 'experience'. But in my jaundiced view, these are distractions:
To net out my take on this (this is a blog, after all): Simulators like these are patronizing and problem-minimizing distractions from creating really helpful solutions based on observation and knowledge. The world of innovation is an amazing place -- where imagination and ideas spawn products (like Audiallo for hearing aids) that are developed and then tested with real people. No need for media-friendly simulation -- no need to personally simulate deafness to understand and provide help to those who have difficulty hearing. No need to try tasks with goggles on and racket in your ears to know that confusion is disorienting and frightening. You just have to watch the faces of people who have dementia to get it.
Watch. Think. Design. Learn. Help. Less media, more benefit.
Post script on 7/7/09:
It's been a bad month for seniors. The accidents are sad, but the press is also troublesome -- driving accidents among seniors seem to have boosted interest in the 'age simulator' suit. It is catching on with reporters who are seizing an opportunity to whip up some interest in 'describing how the suit helps with 'feeling the effects of aging' on driving and, therefore, interest in mandatory road tests. Let's see some analysis of traffic fatalities by age group -- from my casual searches, teenagers dominate. Then there are drunk drivers, and unlicensed drivers...
If insurance companies like Liberty Mutual screened driver risk out by age group, population segment, and history of behaviors and it was difficult to buy a car without a license, there would be far fewer drivers on the road.