TECHNOLOGICAL  ADVANCEMENT - IS IT WIDENING THE GENERATIONAL DIVIDE?

A report  of Australia's CSIRO  (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) at the World Economic Forum stoked curiosity of what jobs would be available  for people in 2035. "By 2035, workplace changes will see us looking for jobs as remote pilots or online chaperones," the report said.   Indeed, dependency on technology has become a given in  peoples' lives that it is now replacing  and changing elemental factors of our constitutional  make-up.  Complicating it is the fact that  it is changing  so fast  that  as one scholar said in  online article "Technology is making us so bust that we can't even find time to spend with our closed one’s".

And this is looking ahead on how things would soon be.  The world is on  one-directional forward-looking  awareness.  It is preparing  the  newborns for a world that will most likely be totally different from today.  And the parent generation of today will just have to play catch up with what they could catch up on.  Their limitations will  serve as the gauge of the expiry date of their functionality.  And it is a harsh confronting  reality that technology that was once a friend will turn out to be the fading generation's executioner.

That brings into relevance the situation of the elderly generation today.

 

Dis-enfranchisement of the elderly or the retiring baby boomers who fall off the fringes of the community pulse because they cannot cope with the computerization of basic services and do not have the technological savvy required in accessing services including their basic needs.

OBJECTIVE:  Seek to establish a system of response to Technological Isolation among the elderly, bridge the gap caused by complicated methodology of accessing services by the elderly and vulnerable end- users and to facilitate a system of sympathetic support and providing technological assistance.

There are many among the elderly who do not use computers nor emails for communication and connection to the community at large. The problem is, email has become the basic method of communication with government departments and institutions like Centrelink, ATO, Medicare, Banks along with providers of basic services e.g. electricity, water, telephone, rental agencies, etc.

Those elderly people who are able to cope with electronic processes, cannot cope with the continuing changes in the computer systems let alone do they know how to cope with computer glitches. While changes are inevitable, there is a widening and gaping gap between accessibility of basic social services and the people who need them. These are the people who are not computer literate or people who have minimal understanding and minimal usage of computers.

Computerizing everything maybe a given-fact of life amongst the current generation but it is something that many from the previous generations learned to live- with, not as a necessity but as accessory to life.

Computerization of most everything has become generationally discriminating. The older generation are falling off the fringes of the pulse of the community, and are missing out on services available to them, thereby getting disenfranchised and dis-advantaged. It is as if it has become a given that everyone just have to adjust to the changes of the world and that everyone is left to his own devices to either swim or drown. The sad part of it is that, drowning seems to be the more common outcome.

Training the elderly on the use of computers is not effective. Not while computer software are continually evolving.

I was at the Department of Immigration a few weeks ago and chanced on an elderly couple visiting Australia from overseas. They came over all the way from Mount Barker to the Immigration Office to apply for their visa extension. They were directed to a computer and while the queue started banking up, they needed assistance on how to access the computer. There were two staff on attendance. Both could hardly cope with the people on queue. Meantime the couple had a hard time getting through the computer Log In. Firstly, they were not computer savvy and even if they were, the software was not consumer friendly. The couple spent two hours on the computer and did not get to complete their errand. They had to run because the lady who accompanied them had to run to work and they had to return to Mount Barker. My generation believed in technology as service to our human needs and not something that dictate the way we live, a role which technology has ironically came to assume and which now cause a lot of people of the older generation to become irrelevant. This realization has not been more blatantly glaring as in the case of Mr. Nasser Farshid -Rod  Myrtle Bank, whose case was shared to me by my daughter Antoinette.

 

Hi Mum

I have a story that might be of interest to you, regarding the disenfranchisement of older generations and disconnection from society through increasingly advancing technology. A couple of weeks ago, an elderly man came into work needing some help with something. He was escorted from the in-store optometrist to the technology department – as what he was asking seemed more appropriate – and he told me his story and predicament.

His name is Nasser Farshid-Rod, and he was a successful Iranian businessman who ran his own company. He migrated to Australia from Iran some time during the revolution. During that time in Iran, people targeted the rich and successful and he left everything behind to come here. He has been living in Australia since. More recently, he slipped, fell and broke his hip and injured his head in the process. He was taken to the Daw Park Repat for surgery for his head injury, and from there is where he started to struggle. His English up until the surgery was very good – ‘perfect!’ he told me emphatically.

But the head injury and the resulting surgery severely affected his speech and language: he spoke slowly in English, and in turn asked if I could speak slowly to him; but he has completely forgot how to speak his own native language. The doctors offered a seemingly simple solution, and that was to record an episode of the news – nothing else – with captions and to practise by writing things down in a book. This is a very easy thing to do! Most televisions have in-built recorders so that you can do exactly what the doctor recommended; people do this everyday so they don’t miss their favourite shows. But his TV and DVD players – probably now considered ancient and outdated – have served him well until now; he needs to upgrade everything.

But he doesn’t have a clue on where to start, how to do it all, and who to ask. He doesn’t know who to call. An obviously proud man begs me this with a quiver in his voice and with tears he tries to fight back, ‘Help me. Please.’

I can only do so much right now and organised for someone to have a look at his current situation and hopefully steer him towards the right direction.

I see a lot of cases of older and elderly people struggling or being unfamiliar with their shiny new toy – tablets and smartphones being very obvious and common examples. But this is one of the most desperate cases of technological isolation I have seen, but I’m sure not the only one.

I don’t bring up this story to point fingers, or accuse anybody of being negligent, but I hope that people be more aware that something simple for us is a difficult task for another. Older and elderly people are especially vulnerable to isolation, and especially those whose English is limited in some way.

I can go on about my observations and familiar patterns, but it all leads to the same thing.

Yes, smart gadgets add just that extra level of convenience, but only if you know how to use it and understand it in the first place.

I have been away for the past week, so I haven’t been able to check up Nasser recently.

He is a patient man, still able to get along by himself with his walking stick, but I hope to talk to him soon and catch up with him. Money doesn’t appear to be an issue for him at the moment, but I can’t help but wonder if it was.

-  Antoinette Hennessy

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WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Big service corporations establish ways of more efficient delivery of service to cater to clients and one of which is the use of call centres for marketing, promotions and to attend to complaints. That’s a scenario of service provider reaching out to client to create more dependency rather than responding to dependency. The basic necessities of the older members of the community are further complicated rather than eased.

Having said that - why not establish a council or state based Centrelink community hotline, or widen the role of care management services to include community monitoring service for elderly who are living alone as well as for other vulnerable individuals? These can be services through which unpaid bills for basic services (gas, electricity and water) are funnelled for client-status monitoring even if it is a door-knocking errand or actual telephone exchange monitoring. At least there must be services that can connect to these people; keep them regularly informed and connected to relevant sectors of the social welfare services.

For the elderly who insist on independent living - why can’t there be follow-up visits or check-ups done by Centrelink or a social work department?

You’ve got meals-on-wheels and mobile- libraries. Why can’t there be ‘mobile secretarial-pool’ that does regular rounds in a suburb, contactable by hotline or that provides road computer-based assistance to the elderly, the computer illiterate, or the uninformed.

What about creating a general dial-up service that they can call for assistance – something similar to the old telephone information directory/service; and for that same administrative service to provide regular phone reminders on basic utilities and in the process they get to statistically monitor their status whether they are ill, alive or dead.

The situation must not be allowed to be more desperate than already is.

What good is technology when humanity gets wasted.

The above  Postion Paper was handed over to Hon. Matt Williams - Member of Parliament -representing Hindmarsh.  A copy was also handed over to Minister Sussan Ley - Federal Minister for Ageing, Health and Sport at the  community forum held on March 7, 3:30-4:30 PM at Ascot Bowling Club, 1 Davidson Avenue, Park Holme, South Australia.

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An upcoming art project - "HOPE IN COLOURS"   will provide participants  an avenue of expressing themselves to help them emerge from social isolation. This art project aims to bring together women who, are soc ially isolated,  disenfranchised or circumstantially excluded,  marginalized or are newly arrived immigrants  or refugees who are in the process of settling in. About the latter, while they might have gone through various orientation programs upon their arrival, it is worth noting that adjustment can take a long time and transition into a different way of life and different environment is stressful and socially intimidating. Through this art project, they will have an avenue to inter-act and exchange notes and ideas with others. It will also help bolster their sense of purpose, self-esteem and sense of belonging. Art is proven to have therapeutic impact and is now often used in conjunction with other treatments. The creative process of art- making helps improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well being of individuals of all ages; creative self expression through art making involving colours, forms and shapes based on remembered grand emotions and experiences through stages of life.

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