There’s An App For That—Future Caregiving
The Future of Caregiving
Looking at research on the future of caregiving is exciting or depressing—depending on what you read.
The Positive Side–Technology
Forbes Magazine quotes Scott Moody, the CEO and founder of K4Connect, a tech company that designs software platforms for the elderly and disabled. He talks about IoT or the Internet of Things.
In a perfect IoT system, an older person could stand up in the middle of the night and a light would automatically turn on and potentially prevent a fall. Or if the person missed taking a medication, an alert would come over his or her in-house stereo system. Moody’s company is working to assure that doorbells, door locks, motion sensors, streaming music, blood pressure monitors and pill reminders, as well as video chat and photo sharing, are automated through a central platform that can be controlled by a user’s smartphone or tablet.
The upbeat publications talk about technology allowing the elderly to be independent longer and staying in their homes longer. They discuss specialized medical treatments and models that will give clinicians information about what drugs work for which patients.
Technology will play a big role in helping people stay in their homes, says Laura Sands, professor at the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech and editor of a new journal, Innovation in Aging, published by the Gerontological Society of America. She goes on to say, “ Within Five years, Apps and online tools for family caregivers will be widely adopted,” Sands says.
Some companies are producing tiny houses called “Granny Pods” or “Granny Units”. These are high tech houses about the size of shed. They fit in a standard backyard and are designed for eldercare. The intention behind them is combining technology with proximity to family.
We know there will be profound demographic shifts over the next five to ten years as the boomer generation ages. Also, there will be fewer adult children caregivers. Most agree there will be philosophical changes about not just extending lifespan but extending “health-span.” What exactly they mean by the term” health-span” is unclear to me. One founder of a research institute on aging describes it as “redefining goals so the elderly won’t need services.” That statement makes me a little uncomfortable.
The Negative Side–Aging Stereotypes, Elderly Out-Number Caregivers
Other researchers are not as positive. They talk about the attitudes of younger generations towards aging.
Stereotypes of aging in contemporary culture, particularly North American culture, are primarily negative, depicting later life as a time of ill health, loneliness, dependency, and poor physical and mental functioning [1, 3]. https://www.hindawi.com/archive/2015/954027
Some put it more bluntly, the elderly are “dumb, slow, smelly, a nuisance, a burden on society, draining resources better used elsewhere, crabby, and endlessly demanding.” (Yikes! It sounds like they’re describing me!) I had to laugh, reading this. Any parent can probably point to an age along the spectrum of dependent children and say the same terms apply anywhere from toddlers to teenagers. Well, I’m not sure I would ever classify children as dumb, just immature which results in some dumb choices.
The purpose of the above study was evaluating the effects of aging stereotypes on the elderly’s overall health outcomes so it probably isn’t fair to use it to draw conclusions about future caregivers. The important part for us, showed an elder’s attitude affects their own health and ability to recover from illness. One interesting aside, children raised with elderly relatives in the home or with frequent contact with the elderly, have more positive attitudes towards the aged.
Cultural Impacts On Future Caregiving
Western culture is a culture of youth, combined with a strong work ethic in which usefulness and worth determined by one’s ability to produce, to work, and contribute monetarily and intellectually. This culture favors the young. Admittedly, this is Western culture and not reflective of all or other cultures. Some cultures value the wisdom of old age, other cultures highly regard old age itself. http://amadaseniorcare.com/blog/2016/02/culture-and-aging/
So what is the future for people like me and other baby boomers? What does all of this really mean? Probably about as much as future predictions we’d all drive flying cars by now. They are only that–predictions and interesting speculation.
Do you have plans in place for your elder years? What would be your ideal scenario? What do you want or envision for your future? I read one article that proposes robotics for the heavy chores of caregiving like lifting and turning patients. Wouldn’t that be something? I’m not sure I’m ready for that.
I’ll be the little old lady from the fairy tale. living in her woodland cottage–no doubt in the Republic of Disney.
Have a Good Caregiving Day,