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There are more Technologies than an iPhone

A long time ago in 2007, a disease that ravaged the world since the dawn of time was struck down in one of the many things it harmed. This disease was called… AGING. What happened in 2007? A technological advancement that allowed people with impaired eyesight to once more read. What was this invention? The Amazon Kindle. (This is not a paid ad).

In all seriousness aging has many impacts on all of us, some positive and some not so positive. With age we develop experience and knowledge being able to face new experiences with our past to aid us. Routines allow us to be able to do things without even thinking. We can drive to work and remember none of the trip. But what if we do need to focus? That is where the issues arise. Aging is something many of us fear but the advent of new technology can help to reduce the impact it has on life. Aging not only affects us physically, but mentally as well. Our senses begin to dull making it more difficult to hear, see, and more. This can turn things that used to be easy into draining tasks and we only have so much energy we can expend. Some people have more energy than others due to many factors, like IQ, environment and more, but wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to do so much to achieve so little. For example reading to most people comes easy (after you learn how to do it of course). But once our vision declines this becomes a more difficult task as the words are too small to see clearly. When we age we may develop cataracts which reduce clarity of vision, and contrast also becomes more difficult. In regards to hearing the language centers of the brain (Like the Wernicke’s area and Broca’s Area) get weakened making it more difficult to understand and speak and our ears do not work as well making it more difficult to hear based on noise level as well as contrast between tones. Not only does aging impact the senses, but also the relationships with those around us. Senses allow us to connect and communicate with others. We can feel the touch of a family member’s embrace, hear their crazy stories, see the horrendous tattoo they got. Senses declining leads to isolation as we lose our ability to connect as easily. This can lead to isolation and issues like depression. 

What can technology do to aid this? Well first we made reading glasses, but those can only do so much for us (My parents still struggle to read even with glasses on). However reading tablets have the capability to change text to make it easier to read with contrast and size. Not only do reading devices have this, but also smartphones!!! These things are dynamic enough to aid in vision by changing the stimuli to be more accessible. The text can be made larger, to aid with issues of clarity, or contrast can be increased, by making words darker or backgrounds lighter. Well what if I struggle to type things out on my device? We also now have voice activated technology, like siri, Alexa, and Google Home. These too are dynamic and change to be accessible for those using it. They can read things for older adults, raise the volume to allow older adults to hear more clearly, and answer questions older adults may have. These things reduce the impact controlled processing, the things we have to think about doing, has, making it more automatic. We also have access to hearing aids both internal, cochlear, and external, run of the mill hearing aids, allowing more people to have an easier time than ever dealing with hearing loss.

With photo memory I can remember the time a child threatened me

So far I’ve only talked about the physical side of this, but what about the cognitive side as this is the “COG Blog” ™. Well something that becomes more difficult with age is prospective memory and controlled processing. Prospective memory is about remembering to do things in the future. For example remembering to pick up groceries before Thanksgiving or smaller things like remembering to take your blood pressure medication each night. Things that could aid in this are phone reminders, calendars, and more. These things can aid in controlled processing. Controlled processing is a type of processing that requires the person to think about what they are doing. Whereas automatic processing one does not need to think about it. This comes with repetition, things like driving to familiar destinations, or doing your job are automatic after a time. Technology can help to remove some of the burden of controlled processing off of older adults and instead place it on a device, as devices can help aid in decision making and cover mistakes in tasks. Instead of having to remember something a whole two weeks before, you can instead have a robot let you know when it becomes more important. In addition to remembering the future, technology can also help to remember the past. Many older adults struggle with remembering past events, while being a stereotype it is quite true. Many diseases impact our memory, making it more difficult to remember our past, both short term and long term memory. Not only does a reduction of senses make it harder to remember details, but our brains physically change as well. Our past experiences make us who we are, so it is important we find ways to remember. Before taking pictures and videos was reserved for super special occasions, but with smartphones practically all having a camera and a lot of storage you can take as many photos and videos as you want. This can aid in retrospective memory, memory of the past, giving older adults a crumb to remember events by. The longer we keep our brains sharp though activities, socialization, sports, and more, also can reduce the impact of these diseases.

Looking forward, it is important to recognize accessible design and make sure that new technologies can be used by older adults. I think it is important to get people up to speed on new technology at a younger age such as in their fifties as it will become more difficult to understand this with time. Public programs and more can be used to help these people understand things that could benefit them in the future. 

  1. Jennifer Moye (2019) Clinical Applications of Technology in Aging, Clinical Gerontologist, 42:1, 1-2, DOI: 10.1080/07317115.2019.1540683
  2. Sebastiaan T.M. Peek, Eveline J.M. Wouters, Joost van Hoof, Katrien G. Luijkx, Hennie R. Boeije, Hubertus J.M. Vrijhoef, Factors influencing acceptance of technology for aging in place: A systematic review, International Journal of Medical Informatics, Volume 83, Issue 4, 2014, Pages 235-248
  3. Bonnielin K Swenor, MPH, PhD, Moon J Lee, BS, Varshini Varadaraj, MD, Heather E Whitson, MD, Pradeep Y Ramulu, MD, Aging With Vision Loss: A Framework for Assessing the Impact of Visual Impairment on Older Adults, The Gerontologist, Volume 60, Issue 6, September 2020, Pages 989–995, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnz117
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