It is much remarked how the world has changed due to all the amazing new technology of recent years. Transport a person from 1,000 or 2,000 years ago to the 1800s and life would mostly still be familiar and they could probably adjust pretty quickly. Transport a person the much shorter distance from the 1800s to today, and they’d be utterly flabbergasted and have no reference point to interpret much of what they see. It would be like they were on some other planet, with beings of some different species.
And the pace of technological change only seems to quicken. The last few years and decades have seen even more dramatic advances.
One area where recent technological advances have had a major impact is on the longevity and the quality of life of seniors.
Perhaps the most obvious advances have been in medical technology. Slow but steady progress has been made in the fight against cancer, with microwave ablation possibly the “next big thing” in cancer research. MRIs and other high tech diagnostic equipment have become commonplace. Doctors are using robotic surgery to more effectively carry out high risk surgical procedures remotely. More and better pharmaceuticals mean that diagnoses that used to be a death sentence now can be treated. The seemingly mundane matter of medical recordkeeping is becoming more computerized all the time, which may have more profound effects on the efficient delivery of health care than any number of more flashy miracle cures and miracle drugs.
But it’s not just that doctors have more gizmos to extend the life of the elderly. Think of how the day to day life of the elderly has been improved by technology. Something as simple as a magnifying device for reading has been a godsend to seniors with failing sight who even with glasses could no longer read a newspaper or their mail. Electronic wheelchairs and even walkers are becoming higher tech all the time, with the newest ones capable of responding to voice commands, thus enhancing the mobility of seniors.
One respect in which technology has had a major beneficial impact on the elderly is in terms of reducing their isolation in the event of an emergency. A nightmarishly common occurrence in the past was for an older person to fall and be unable to summon help. The injuries may well have been minor enough that the person would have been fine with prompt medical attention, but instead they would lie there frightened and hopeless for hours and days until it was too late.
Now with cell phones and medical alarms in the form of pendants and transmitters that the elderly can keep with them (yes, the type of device that was immortalized in the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial), that scenario is far less common. Some seniors even have video cameras in their residence that can be monitored remotely to make sure they aren’t experiencing an emergency that has rendered them unconscious and unable to summon help even with a phone or medical alarm.
Another obvious way that the lives of seniors have been enhanced through technology is with personal computers and the Internet. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the case that folks over 30 are incapable of turning on a computer. With the Internet, seniors have access to unlimited information, from medical questions to Social Security to which area restaurants have the best senior discounts.
In these ways and many more, technology has enormously improved elder care, including the capacity of the elderly to care for themselves.