Can technology help in dealing with loneliness? If technology can keep the young hooked to their devices, can it do the same for the senior citizens? Can we build stuff that will add value to their lives? To do that you need to understand what they need, what causes them depression and sadness. And if the mind can be re-wired.
A rapidly aging population is a matter of worry, especially in India. Family structures and attitude towards the elderly is changing. There is apathy towards this situation from the government as well. Pension schemes are closed, there is no low cost and good medical facilities specifically for senior citizens and no old age homes that feel like home. By 2050 we will have 324 million people above 60 years of age in India. This is a mounting responsibility for the nation. Technically I will be in that group as well. So what can I do to safeguard myself against this?
Loneliness is becoming a part of our culture. It is sneaking into our lives irrespective of the age. And when it comes to senior citizens the situation is getting worse. In this post, I want to examine if technology can help solve this problem of loneliness for senior citizens. Do we have some existing solutions for it?
And with some mindset change in ourselves can we help our parents live better lives. I feel it is the time we should give back to them.
We should establish a system that in due course of time will help us as well.
What causes depression and loneliness.
Loneliness creeps in when children move out of the house, an onset of a disease, financial struggles, indifferent behavior of family members (specifically children), not having a social life, and not able to cope up with changes around them and larger not finding a purpose in life.
By 2021 there will be 143 million people aged above 60 years in India.
I believe technology can make a life-changing impact for senior citizens. It can help them feel valuable and engage them with their environment. A feeling of being a burden to anyone is quite prominent in seniors and technology can help get them rid of it by engaging them and providing them independence. For example- apps like Uber can help them move around. A service like Uber for seniors will be a great idea. It can have some special features like single tap bookings, reducing the customization, have sedans with low ground clearance and trained drivers who drop them inside the house or where ever they are going.
Social apps for seniors can help them be a part of the community. For example- We can have Facebook for seniors. It can be a simplified version of the current Facebook app. It can help seniors form communities and meet people around them. A sense of being a part of a community can keep depression and loneliness at bay.
I think the 80/20 rule will help here. Teaching simple applications like What’s App, Google maps, Uber will help them be more independent. I have seen my dad getting exasperated when he is trying to forward a message from what’s app or want to share some images. I try troubleshooting whenever he gets stuck but I realized sometimes I am traveling and I am not able to help. For this, I created a couple of videos that he can use to navigate What’s App and Google Maps. This has proved very helpful. Another thing I learned is that our parents feel bad when they ask us the same thing again and again. For learning any new thing it requires doing it again and again. I remember learning by repeating when I was a child and even now. It goes the same for them as well.
There are startups who are seeing this problem and figuring out solutions. First Seniors in Delhi and Maya Care in Pune, are teaching the elderly how to adapt to the tech-savvy modern world. Maya Care offers its services for free. Aaji Care, founded by Prasad Bhide, provides assistants who visit senior citizens for daily chores, playing or just talking.
Technology can have a massive impact on improving the quality of life for senior citizens. Capturing the specific needs, using design thinking and a sense of deep care will help in building the right solutions.