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What Does Avatar Have To Do With Aging In Place?

Ok, I'll admit it. I went and saw Avatar last weekend and I loved it. Yes, the tree-hugger message was a little overplayed. And the 3D left me a little nauseated more than once. But there was also a lot there and I think I'll be unpacking this one for a while. What do big blue aliens have to do with aging in place? Beyond the respect for elders and communal living environment, there was one other concept that the aging-in-place market can latch onto: "I see you." For the uninitiated, this is not a simple statement meaning "you are in my line of sight" or even "hi." It means, "I see and acknowledge who you are."

I'm hoping that this concept catches on. Because it will make the connectivity and contribution aspects of aging in place so much easier to explain. On the connectivity side, "I see you" is about video-conferencing that's so simple you can look your aging loved ones in the eyes and really paying attention to how they are doing. I recently skyped with my parents for the first time -- it makes a difference. Or, on a different scale, I recently took a briefing from Wellcore, a company that created a PERS 2.0 system that includes a capability for a caregiver to not just monitor their loved one, but also to send messages on a built-in communication platform.

On the contribution side, "I see you" is about platforms that let seniors tell their stories. Right now, solutions focus mostly on the verbal, eliciting the words that describe a senior's history and experience. But with media-digitizing solutions from companies like ScanCafe, DigMyPics, and FotoBridge, these stories will soon be multi-media, allowing seniors to tell their stories in multiple dimensions.

One last thought on Avatar. The mind-meld between humans and a genetically modified avatar body may seem far-fetched, but it's compelling. Anyone who has created their Mii and then watched it cavort across the screen playing tennis or bowling or boxing knows that.


I believe that the ability for an older person and their loved ones to see each other via videotelephone, will often result in both parties feeling more connected, happier, more at ease. If you consider that a definition of health encompasses the physical, mental and spiritual well being of a person, more at ease..........lack of dis-ease, than videoconferncing is a technology which has the propensity to help families and their loved ones feel less lonely, more at ease........... healthier!

I've pondered the use of technology in eldercare. While I believe that Skype-visits are a good thing for some, on the other hand I wonder if some families will substitute these distant visits for the real thing-- a face to face visit where families share an experience. As an educator in the reclaiming of human touch in eldercare, I question if technology will add another layer of removal of nurturing human touch for our elders.


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