latest

Making sure older people aren’t left behind in the digital revolution

9th March 2021 about a 3 minute read
I was really interested to hear about the brilliant technology in the FCC home care tech review. There were some great solutions there, but it’s sometimes hard to see how they are designed with these problems in mind.

This week Age UK published a report highlighting the plight of what they call “digitally excluded” older people. It seems that though the pandemic has meant more over 75s are going online, many are getting left behind. And some who were using their computers have stopped, often because of disability.

It’s a subject close to my heart. In a previous blog I talked about my grandmother Maureen. She had a fall here last March, right at the start of the pandemic, when she was visiting us from South Africa. 

It meant she couldn’t fly home and it’s all been a bit of a saga. But in August last year we finally managed to get her on a plane and home safely to South Africa where she continued to stay indoors and shield. She recovered well from the fall but unfortunately she fell again last week and managed to fracture her shoulder. The doctors have told her she has to let it heal naturally. Poor Granny!

Like many of her generation Granny Maureen has adapted quickly to the latest technologies... but since fracturing her shoulder even WhatsApping has become an almost impossible task

In one of our video-chats we were talking about technology and AI. Like many of her generation my gran has adapted quickly to the latest technologies. She was using WhatsApp, app games, Netflix, etc, but since fracturing her shoulder she has lost most use of her arm. And her arthritis is an added problem. What used to be a simple task of opening WhatsApp to send a text message, has become an almost impossible task for her – as she can barely open the app to make a video call now.

This has made me think about all the people in this world (young and old) who perhaps do not have use of their hands or fingers. What does that mean when they want to use technology and AI to make a simple call or text?

Adapting technology to make it work for all

How do they adapt and make technology work for them, or perhaps more to the point how do we adapt technology so it works for all? It seems some people are stuck with 1980s tech in our whizzy digital world. Voice recognition has played a significant part in making technology more accessible – but it needs to be finessed. And of course, it’s not always easy to set up a device for voice recognition. And sometimes the system just fails.

There are so many technology and AI companies that are doing amazing work in this area. But I do wonder if more could be done so new tech and AI are produced with more vulnerable members of society in mind. I was really interested to read about the brilliant technology in our home care tech review. There were some great solutions there, but it’s sometimes hard to see how they are designed with these problems in mind.

As an able-bodied person I rarely stop to think about the challenges faced by people living with arthritis, Parkinson’s, amputations… the list goes on. Until now that my granny is affected, I can’t stop thinking about it! Technology and AI are such an important part of life in the 21st century. More and more services are moving online and it’s wrong that some people are being left behind in our digital revolution.

And it’s not just older people who are excluded – anyone with a disability could have problems. You or I could have a fall tomorrow. One day all of us will get older. We all have an interest in getting this right – so what are we going to do about it?