TGIF: As society ages, it’s technology to the rescue – Brownwood Bulletin

We generally understand the dangers of technology. Almost daily, the headlines provide evidence that criminals and predators have mastered various techniques of swindling good people out of their hard-earned savings and luring unsuspecting innocents into dangerous situations. Still, even smart people get duped.
Then there’s the misleading, if not totally false, information being spread on social media. It’s enough to make a person wonder if stepping into this era of communications was a mistake. Either way, the genie cannot be put back in the bottle.
Many critics, in whose number I count myself, can easily overlook the many advantages technology has brought us.
Physicians can diagnose diseases and assist in the treatment of patients living on the other side of the country, and even the other side of the world.
Homeowners can monitor their property in real-time while traveling and notify neighbors or authorities if something looks amiss.
With the same technology, relatives of people who are physically vulnerable don’t have to worry if they must be left unsupervised for a period of time — assuming the proper technology is in place.
As the world moves through the second anniversaries of various COVD-19 related events, we can reflect on how our lives might have been even more difficult had we not had technology.
Without the various online meeting services — programs like Zoom, Go-To-Meeting, FaceTime, and Google Meet — management of businesses and organizations would have been even more complicated than it’s been. Families are able to “almost” be together during times when a physical presence wasn’t possible. Friends and relatives of loved ones in hospitals or care centers have been able to visit remotely. Think back a few years. A telephone call is nice, but being able to see each other — even if it’s on a screen — is a blessing that previous generations could only dream about.
New advances promise to become more incredible in the future, after the pandemic eases and life returns to a new normal.
A fact sheet published by the World Health Organization last year calculates that between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22%. The number of people aged 60 years and older already outnumbers children younger than 5 years. And it’s definitely a trend that will affect areas beyond the United States. By 2050, 80% of senior citizens will be living in low- and middle-income countries.
Older people are often considered frail and confused, and some are. But society needs to address ageist attitudes, the WHO reports. Not every senior citizen is sitting around wondering why their Blackberry doesn’t work anymore, or wondering how they will watch Betamax tapes of Barnaby Jones since the VCR broke.
Even as the technology age blossomed in the early 2000s, many of the people I considered senior citizens at the time were avid early-adopters. A couple of decades later, I’m at the stage in life that they were then, and I must admit, it’s not easy to keep up. Sometimes it’s not a matter of a learning curve that slows you down, it’s about the cost of replacing perfectly fine products with the newest available upgrades.
These days, technology is much more than merely having a cell phone or electronic tablet to create text, compose emails, surf the internet, or order shoes. It’s also about staying safe, healthy and connected.
Major tech companies like Amazon, Google, and others are embracing the growing market of senior citizens by introducing products that will probably be indispensable in the near future. Some of these products will be incorporated into furniture, for example, that can monitor a home for evidence of falls, breakage, or other types of life-threatening crises. Wearable telemetry can already deliver messages about medical emergencies to folks in your contact list. Those type of alerts will become even more sophisticated. As a result, senior citizens should be able to stay in their homes longer than ever before.
People with bad intentions will never give up trying to exploit technology, and everyone needs to be on guard to avoid becoming a victim. But technology is not only making life more enjoyable for folks of all ages, but it is also making life safer — especially for those whose conditions are more fragile.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.

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