Entertainment » Vol. 25

Aging in Place ~ My Place or Yours

By Alisa Singer

We raised our kids with the help of baby monitors and nanny cams and now, in our role as the “meat” of the sandwich generation, we baby boomers are discovering that technology can also help us keep tabs on our aging parents. The developments in “aging-in-place technology” further the goal of allowing our parents to safely stay in their own homes and out of nursing homes. Through devices and sensors already available, and other inventions on the cusp, we can monitor who’s ringing their door bell or calling their phone, whether they’ve taken their medication, waken up in the middle of the night or gotten out of bed, their heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, and even how much time they’ve spent in the bathroom.excellent-humor-granny-podcloud

Some systems include one or two way video cameras, allowing us to watch our parents going about their daily routine. GPS devices in their shoes keep track of the wanderings of parents with dementia and soon we’ll be able to implant microchips containing health records of seniors who might be discovered unconscious. (My prediction is that these latter two technologies will merge when people realize patients with dementia don’t necessarily put their shoes on before they walk out the front door.)

These inventions may become critical tools in our effort to protect and care for our aging parents, but beware – the tables will soon be turned. Before we know it our kids will become the salami of the sandwich generation, and it will be information about our most intimate habits and bodily functions that will be sent via email alerts or text messages to their iPhones.

Makes you wonder if instead of watching YouTube, our kids will amuse themselves viewing videos of mom wandering aimlessly from room to room, or dad trying to remember where he put his glasses, startling us as their voices boom out from the discreetly hidden speakers: “They’re in the fridge, Dad!”

This scenario raises many fears in my mind. For one, I worry that I will be too boring to watch for very long, like those animals in the zoo that one glances at momentarily and then moves on. What then for my safety and security if my caregivers start channel surfing? It would be tempting to contemplate keeping our voyeuristic offspring glued to the screen with some uninhibited octogenarian love making, but the thought is too depressing. (Not the voyeuristic part so much, but the thought that we might still have to deal with sex in our eighties.)

But what will our kids really hope or expect to see from these recordings? It seems to me they’ll be waiting for the big event ~ the catastrophe that justifies the substantial investment in the system: “Look Jenna! Mom’s fallen down and can’t get up. Now aren’t you glad we spent all that money on video cameras?” I know our kids won’t wish us ill, but discoveries like that are really the point of the whole thing. And there we will be, splayed and immobile on the floor, hoping the camera angle happens to be trained in just the right direction.

And lest anyone become too complacent, it’s worth remembering that the technology is only as good as the people monitoring it. And so I worry ~ how will my ADHD daughter be able to monitor the text messages regarding the regularity of my bowel movements if she keeps losing her cell phone?

But allow me to direct your attention to another invention that I’m not sure isn’t more frightening than comforting. It’s the “med-cottage,” sometimes referred to as a “granny-pod.” This is a structure installed in the backyards of adult children who don’t want their parents actually living inside their houses, but also don’t want to send them to nursing homes. Please take a moment to imagine a hybrid between a hotel room and a doghouse, only wired with motion detectors, video cameras and other state-of-the-art surveillance equipment.

I can’t rid myself of the image of each of us staring mournfully out of the windows of our Little Houses on the Prairie, our respective noses pressed against the glass as we watch our families in the “Big House” sitting around a table in a brightly lit room, enjoying a comfortable meal, laughing and, perhaps, singing. And then a tornado comes along and, like Dorothy’s house in Kansas, our lightweight trailer-park-for-one is swept up into the funnel cloud and carried off. Unaware, the family in the big house keeps on singing.

Well, here’s my thought for what it’s worth: If that’s how I’m going to be “aging-in-place,” then I’d like to be allowed to age in some other place, please ~ preferably one where the backyard has a nice pool.

Alisa Singer’s humorous essays have appeared in a variety of print and online newspapers and magazines across the country and in Canada. She is the author of various gift books designed to entertain and amuse baby boomers. Her newest book, When a Girl Goes From Bobby Sox to Compression Stockings…She Gets a Little Cranky, is available at www.Lulu.com. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website, www.AlisaSinger.com,  or by contacting her at ASingerAuthor@gmail.com.

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