[SENIOR MOMENTS] Embracing Technology

Stephanie Vendig

My 90-year-old friend announced to me that she now has “Alexa” and she just loves her. Now Alexa is not a person assisting her or a new pet. Alexa is a machine! Sold by Amazon, it’s designed to help a person with everyday tasks. So, when my friend wants to reach her granddaughter on the telephone, Alexa looks up the number and calls her.

Today we are seeing remarkable technological changes not only created for business efficiency or to make physical labor easier, but also to help people in their day-to-day lives. Called Assistive Technology, it can return a measure of control and interaction to a disabled or older person by allowing them to more easily perform tasks that have become difficult.

Many of us in the elder age category are naturally skeptical of letting a device do things we’re supposed to be able to do. Hearing aids, canes, walkers, etc. are often resisted. But while we are living longer and healthier than in previous decades, we no longer have the bodies of 30-year-olds. So why not accept a little help where we can get it?

I feel empowered just by the fact that I went from using my pencil and typewriter to the computer for my writing. Who remembers the tedious cut-and-paste routines, the scratching out, the white-out, the carbons and other exasperating modes of correcting work? Now the computer makes it so easy to revise and I think my writing is the better for it.

Another example is with my driving. Even though I consider myself a good driver, driving skills are complex. With my latest car, I added safety features not available on my old cars. I have a camera that shows me a more complete picture when I back up. I get a beep if I wander out of my lane, or if the car in front of me is moving or stopping.

My phone GPS gives me directions to a location. Not only am I told which street to use, it warns me before it is time to turn. The latest version is now telling me which lane I should use to get ready to turn to avoid a hazardous last-minute lane change. My GPS is my security blanket.

The era of self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, robotics—and even machines learning tasks from human demonstrations—is upon us. And that means there are now an awful lot of ways for us to continue with lives we love no matter our age.

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