Friday, November 26, 2021
It's not "Big Brother ... Watching You." (If you are a Baby Boomer, you will likely remember the phrase.) So who is watching if you are using tech to age in place? The Washington Post addressed this question in For seniors using tech to age in place, surveillance can be the price of independence.
On the surface the benefits of home and health monitoring technology seem obvious. A flow of information about the older person can put a caretaker at ease and help keep track of physical or cognitive decline. It is a way to extend the amount of time they are able live in their own homes before moving to someplace like a retirement or nursing home.
But the devices, many of which grew out of security and surveillance systems, can take privacy and control away from a population that is less likely to know how to manage the technology themselves. The idea of using tech to help people as they age is not a problem, say experts, but how it’s designed, used and communicated can be. Done wrong or without consent, it is one-way surveillance that can lead to neglect. Done right, it can help aging people be more independent.
New tech is being developed according to the article, and the article points out that the tech requires maintenance. "Aside from privacy issues, Internet connected devices are also a security worry. Many are stuffed with insecure software and require regular updates and password changes so they are not vulnerable to breaches." Even though tech can offer some advantages, there are still some caregiving tasks that require a human to perform (at least for now).
Here's an important point about the use of monitoring technology. "There is an imbalance of power that often exists between the elderly and their caretakers when it comes to technological know how. In the worst case scenario, it can also play a role in elder abuse, whether it is financial, physical or emotional, experts say." The elder needs to give consent to the use of the monitoring devices and understand that "[b]eing old does not mean you lose your rights."
Thanks to Professors Bauer and Cahn for sending me the link to the article.