I recently purchased a brand new Nikon D3500 camera. I have great aspirations of becoming a video producer of quality educational products (Five Pillars of Aging, coming to your computer soon!). My new camera looks suspiciously like my old Cannon 35 mm from back in the day. But it is anything but!
The manual for my Nikon D3500 is 345 pages long. It is not unlike the Mueller Report. There are obviously very important facts and findings concealed within, but pulling out the goodies is daunting! So, I turned to YouTube. Now, I am of an age where I was taught to learn new skills by reading and following step-by-step instructions. Some of you may be familiar with the concept of learning styles. In brief, some of us learn by watching and doing, some by reading and doing, and some by just doing it over and over until we figure it out. I fall into the latter category, and have reluctantly adapted my style to at least reading about what is supposed to be done. But mostly I try things out.
Should you be like me, may I just encourage you to forget about using the exploration method with these new-fangled cameras – I have needed to read, watch YouTube, try stuff out, and then go back and do all three over and over again. I am not sure whether this is just my brain not being able to grasp all the bells and whistles, or being unable to learn from watching 15 year-old geniuses explain how to operate the camera. Maybe it is a combination of both.
I admit to being impatient. I want to be making movies, but there are some basics I need to learn before I can start doing that. Back in the old days, I used to point, click and shoot. Now, I have to load batteries, slip in memory chips, go through 15 menus to choose the right settings, and then turn the damn thing on. So far I have had to return the wrong battery, the wrong memory chip, and the wrong microphone. Me and Amazon returns are getting to be great buds!
While technology is challenging, it is also something that I am intrigued with in terms of how much difference it can make in the lives of aging adults. Several years ago I became aware of the availability of Smart Technology to make older adults with memory loss safer. One of the challenges with some folks with dementia is that they wander. Getting lost puts them a risk. One company developed GPS chips to put in shoes so that wanderers could be tracked. When first developed, these advances were insanely expensive, putting them out of reach of most people. Today, the GPS chips and monitoring devices have come down substantially in price.
I can attest to the wonders that technology brings to aging adults. One of my patients has experienced the frightening consequence of not remembering to take his medications as directed. Like many others, his pills were set up on a weekly basis. His habit was to sit down on Friday night, line up all the pills that needed to be taken the following week and fill up the pill case. Also, like so many others, his pills were mailed to him in 3-month quantities (much cheaper for the pharmaceutical company). Only problem was his primary care provider and other specialists had changed his medications over time and he couldn’t remember what he needed to take for what when.
By the time I started working with him, he had been sent to a memory specialist who had seen him on a day when he had taken his meds incorrectly, and who ended up diagnosing him with a severe memory problem. My patient was ashamed, scared, and feeling quite defeated.
I had a feeling though, that he really didn’t have a memory problem. So I took a look at his meds and asked him how he managed them. His answer made me think that what might be at the bottom of his behaviors was related more to his medications and their effects than his cognitive functioning.
So, what we did, was get him a Siri. He was used to using his i-Phone. The only challenge with Siri was getting his Wi-Fi company to get things hooked up correctly. Once that was settled and he had gotten used to talking to a machine, we set up reminders for him to take his medications, along with reminders as to which medications he was supposed to be taking. Within two weeks, his cognitive functioning had improved, and he was well on the way to feeling better about himself. What remains a barrier, however, is how to make the learning curve less challenging.
In one of my previous professional lives, I worked at SRI, International. This is a think tank in Menlo Park, California, that has given us many different kinds of technology that today are considered common-place. One of the conferences back in the 1990’s was entitled, “High-Tech; High-Touch”. The theme of the conference was to explore the needs that technology could address while taking into consideration the human aspects of it. I’ve never forgotten this.
There are so many issues that aging adults will need to adapt to and find accommodations for in the 21st century. These are at last becoming a focus of research in gerontology. According to editors at SAGE Journals, “For the aging population, technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the rapid pace of development and change can make it difficult for older adults to learn new technologies, while the world’s increasing use of and dependence on smart devices and digital technologies leaves those who struggle to adapt at a distinct, isolated disadvantage. On the other hand, technologies geared specifically towards an increasing, aging population contribute to increased comfort and dignity, the ability to live at home for longer, ease with managing health issues, and even longer life.”
There can be so much more that we can do with technology. Like that conference at SRI so many decades ago, we need to pair the technology with hands-on care and help. It is this intersection that fascinates me as well as currently challenges me.
What I have learned is that I need to take more time before I catch on to some new technology. Attitude is everything. Being willing to try something new makes a difference in how many of my memory neurons fire sufficiently to remember what the sequence and pattern is that I need to get the outcome I desire. Giving myself permission to relax and ask for help has made a world of difference. I can’t wait to show you my videos (but please be patient!)