Those Darned Machines! Technology And The Elderly

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Many elderly individuals are completely baffled by electronics devices like cell phones, DVR’s, and microwaves. My mom will stop using her microwave when the power goes out and the clock resets, even though I have told her numerous times that the function of the microwave is not affected by the clock’s function. I bought her a pre-paid cell phone (her very first cell phone, by the way) for her birthday in November, and am scratching my head trying to figure out why she won’t use it. She keeps it turned off during the day, then when I visit her, she complains that no one calls her on her new cell phone! I have made sure to tell her numerous times that there is no way that anyone can reach her on the cell phone if it is turned off.

There are times when I go to visit my mom when she asks me to help her dial numbers which I have already programmed into quick-dial. This is sort of pointless, since I prefer to use my phone to make those calls when I visit. I keep trying to encourage my mom to use her cell phone when I am not visiting, and honestly don’t know why she isn’t excited about having a means to communicate with her friends. I know that her macular degeneration is robbing her of her vision, and that her arthritis is so bad that it can be a challenge to hold things, but my mom exhibits a complete refusal to accept gadgets from the modern age, and has done so for as long as I can remember.

I remember when my mom got a Mac computer in 1991, and was so afraid to use it that she never turned it on. She would wait until I came over, then would ask me to turn it on and show her how to perform the same basic functions that I would show her every single time. When she got a VCR, she asked me to show her how to use it every single time she wanted to use it, despite the fact that I wrote down detailed instructions on an index card and taped them to the front of the VCR!

Recently I came across an interesting article, which was featured on theguardian.com and which discusses the difficulties which elderly folk have with modern technology. The original link can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2007/aug/21/technology.news

What I find totally fascinating is that there is research which backs the claim that frontal lobe changes and degeneration occur in the elderly, and that those changes render older people helpless and confused when it comes to figuring out how new tools and gadgets work.

Does that mean that younger generations will also exhibit the same confusion regarding new technology when they become much older? Are we all doomed to scratch our heads in confusion when the iPhone 35 comes out in thirty years?

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