Notes From My Knapsack 3-23-17
Good News for Seniors
As a pastor of a congregation in Newark, I see and worship with and work alongside of a whole lot of senior citizens.
Contrary to what the clerks keep trying to offer me on "senior discount day", I'm not one yet. And in fact, it keeps me both feeling young and looking forward to getting older to be among lots of lively, vital elderly people.
Yes, I also visit and lead worship in nursing homes. Which we're not supposed to call them anymore, but you know.
The scenes in those places can be tragic, and various levels of dementia can be frightening to deal with, just in terms of making you think "what if that happens to me someday." Yet it is a great joy to see someone largely zoned out or even unaware of you suddenly smile, sit up, and speak or sing when the Lord's Prayer or "Amazing Grace" are shared. They may recede back into that place they were in, inside their heads, and not respond to your smile, but familiar words and music can bring their smile back, even if for a time.
With Newark & Licking County having a large number of people "aging in place" we had a speaker to church recently, talking about how you can do that, and what it looks like, as well as talking through the various levels of care you can find in our community.
Amy Huddleston shared with us, among other things, that by 2040, the United States will have over 550,000 centenarians – those reaching the age of 100. Yes, there are more dementia cases each year in total, but our ability to blunt or slow many forms of that is improving, medically, and only a portion of those of us getting to our 90s or beyond will have to face that… or our families face it.
I worry when I hear people, often right around my age, who are starting to feel and experience the limitations of aging in our 50s, say "I hope I never get that old." Not enough people have exposure to some of the octogenarians and nonagenerians I know, who are still kicking some heiney and perfectly able to take names.
And as both a pastor, and someone getting older everyday myself, I see some developments that I think are very encouraging for those of us still working on getting old. It looks very promising that we will have self-driving cars in the near future: that takes away my biggest concern for some seniors I know, and reduces the need for people to leave their homes just because they can't drive.
Home delivery is a big deal now, from books to electronics to now groceries. Again, when this is more generally available, what a gift of autonomy it could be to seniors who have to ask for someone to get their groceries for them (and don't always get what they asked for).
Interactive monitors were featured in a story here not long ago, and I thought about home-bound seniors immediately. Voice controls for lights and TV help arthritic hands. And then there's . . . robots. First they vacuum for us, next they clean the bathrooms for us, and I can imagine they might get to where they can help us keep ourselves clean, when elbows don't bend and backs don't twist so well.
Grandmas already love those wireless picture frames that send grandkid pictures directly to their end table, but tech might bring even more peace of mind, to seniors and to their families.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him where you see technology helping maintain senior independence at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.