Technology is a mystery to my mum – if we’re so clever, let’s invent things to make the lives of the elderly easier

While modernity gallops on making life simpler, more exciting, more immediate for the young, the needs of the old are being completely ignored

Jenny Eclair
Monday 03 December 2018 12:47
Comments
No one is even bothering to use any common sense
No one is even bothering to use any common sense

I’m back home with mother. This is a temporary arrangement both of us are very relieved to report. She has just had a cataract done and out of her three children, I’m the kindest. Oh, and the only one with a flexible freelance job. My brother is a criminal defence barrister and my sister is an adjudicator (no me neither) and apparently both of these jobs, you know going to court and helping make decisions which affect people’s future lives, are more important than showing off for a living. Anyway, I’m in novel writing mode at the moment and have a laptop so I can travel.

At this point, it strikes me most people believe you can write novels anywhere – including when you are facing backwards on a Virgin Pendolino, sitting next to Gareth who has to take, and make, very important work calls in between picking his nose and watching Game of Thrones. When in actual fact, as any author knows, writing only really happens when you are sitting in your special lucky chair within easy reach of a fridge, which has been stocked with special snacky writer treats – or as I call it “muse food”.

But all of this is irrelevant. The fact is, I love my mum. She’s 89, stoic, hilarious and one of the cleverest women I know. My mum is the kind of oldie it’s embarrassing to watch quiz shows with: June can remember who wrote Moby Dick before I’ve had a chance to sneakily look it up on my iPhone, she’s a whiz at rivers and which countries border Pakistan. But she’s also knocking on a bit and partially disabled thanks to contracting polio in her twenties. So I hot-footed it up north from London to do some hand holding and to make sure she didn’t fall over post op.

OK, for starters, she sailed through the op. But so far the results aren’t quite the miracle lots of her mates had hyped her up for. We’re not panicking yet. Apparently it’s quite common to experience blurriness for a few days, so we will clutch wood and hope for the best, until checkup time next week.

In the meantime, I’m sticking around and trying not to lose it when attempting to explain modern culture or the fact that yes, she does have an email address but it’s not the same as her post code.

Its not easy growing old in 2018, especially for women such as my mother, who opted for the head in sand approach to technology back in the Nineties when computers first began to creep into our homes. Like many of her generation, she approaches her iPad as if it were a Komodo dragon that might bite at any time. Yes, she can read and return emails and play Patience, but ordering anything on Amazon is a step too far and she still hasn’t quite got the gist of Google. She is however a soup-making ninja and can make a chicken last a fortnight, it’s just modern life is confusing and takes a great deal of lengthy explanation and demonstration after demonstration.

Sometimes it reminds me of being the mother of a toddler who asked really hard questions, such as “why is water wet?” When she asked me what Strictly’s Joe Sugg does for a living I found myself struggling to explain what a YouTube star is and yes, she’s got a smart TV but however many times I show her how to use the remote control to navigate the thing, she can’t get used to the scrolling mechanism. Its frustrating, because she’s so clever. Her bedside table is piled high with proper authors, she is politically savvy, she reads a proper broadsheet newspaper, but her mobile phone lies dormant at the bottom of her bag. I tell her she might as well be carrying around a tin of rice pudding, but she pretends not to care.

And to be honest, I don’t think she does. She is quite contented with her world. She can’t be bothered with podcasts, Instagram and Snapchat and what’s cool. It’s not going to kill her not knowing what a download is. What’s much more concerning is that while technology gallops on making life easier, more exciting, more immediate for the young, the needs of the old are being completely ignored. No one is even bothering to use any common sense. Important letters are still being sent out in tiny font to nonagenarians who haven’t a hope in hell of reading them. Instructions for geriatric post-op care are complicated and vital eye drops come in impossible to use bottles for those with arthritic wrists.

So, while I’m not against technological progress, can we please stand still for a second and think about using some of that brainpower for designing stuff that will help the elderly live independently and well for longer. Remote controls with an iPlayer button, washer/dryers that you don’t need a PhD to fathom and some kind of post-op drug robot which will clean, vacuum and administer drugs efficiently and on time.

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