“It takes courage to dream, to face our futures and the limiting forces within us. It takes courage to be determined that, as we slow down physically, we are going to grow even more psychologically and spiritually… Maya Angelou said we must be courageous about facing and exploring our personal histories. We must find the courage to care and… we need the courage to create ourselves daily… as thinking, caring, laughing, loving human beings.” – Bud Harris
The concept and process of ageing confuses and frightens many people. Succinctly stated, growing older, especially during the second half of the millennium, reminds people of their mortality. On the other hand, ageing is unavoidable, and the stress and anxiety that is often partnered with ageing frequently accelerate the physical and mental degeneration process.
Therefore, the essence of ageing is not whether people grow older or not. Rather, it is how to grow older while ensuring the maintenance of the same levels of living standards for as long as possible.
This rather lengthy quotation mentioned above by Bud Harris highlights the courage needed to age gracefully, to slow down physically, and to possibly end up dependant on others for our physical needs and well-being without being resentful and bitter. Because, more often than not, ageing can be challenging to come to terms with, and it can result in unintended ill-humour due to the frustrations of growing old.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that Maya Angelou (1928-2014), civil rights activist, poet, and award-winning author of the memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is mentioned in this quotation. The obvious question is: “Why?” And, the brief answer is that, when looking at the series of the events related to her life story, she has every reason to be bitter and resentful. However, if anyone has aged gracefully in spite of her history, it is her.
The elderly and the media: The impact of negative portrayals on the elderly
Furthermore, media portrayals of the elderly tend towards the negative. The aged are often portrayed as awkward, grumpy, demanding people who believe that society owes them a debt. Furthermore, culture and modern social media glorify youth, beauty, vitality, and sexuality. As described by the online resource, “Introduction to Sociology“, “rarely do the roles of older people convey the fullness of life experienced by seniors—as employees, lovers, or the myriad tasks they have in real life.”
Consequently, there are a number of myths and assumptions made about ageing and the elderly. Moreover, many of these stereotypical attitudes are unique to the different cultures across the globe. According to the “Introduction to Sociology” web document, “each culture has a certain set of expectations and assumptions about ageing, all of which are part of our socialization.”
As a result, it is acceptable to wonder why it is necessary to be cognisant of these myths. Therefore, the “why” questions become relevant in this context. Ergo, why are there so many stereotypes that encompass ageing and the elderly? Why should we be concerned with all of these myths and stereotypes? How do they impact negatively on the elderly’s quality of life? And what can we do to counter them?
Longevity: A statistical overview
Before we look at a few answers to these questions, let’s look at statistics concerning the increase in the average human life span. As, these figures provide the background and reason for ensuring improved quality of life.
Statistics quoted by the National Institute of Health show that, in 2016, 8.5 percent of all people worldwide were older than 65 years old. However, as medical treatment and the quality of food improves, longevity improves exponentially. And statistically speaking, 17% of the world’s population is expected to be aged 65 and over by 2050. Ergo, the number of people living to greater than 65 years is expected to double between 2016 and 2050.
Therefore, it makes sense that living longer presents unique challenges to both the elderly, their families, and the national or federal governmental structures. And much needs to be done to solve these challenges.
The Digital Age: The loss of independence and how to regain it
One of the most common and most frustrating challenges that senior citizens face is the loss of freedom of movement because of increasing mental and physical frailty. Thus, it is easy for our loved ones to feel unloved, useless, and unwanted as they age because they become more dependent on carers (family and otherwise) the older they get.
And, this simple fact becomes the raison d’etre to ensure that we counterbalance these feelings of uselessness by providing a safe, secure environment in which our loved ones can live their lives as independently as possible for as long as possible.
The good news is that the Digital Age partnered with the increase in the availability of mobile devices, especially mobile phones, has provided the platform for the solution to this challenge. And software applications like The Senior Safety App have specifically been designed to allow seniors to remain as independent as possible while staying safe.
The question that begs is: What benefits and features do these apps offer senior citizens and their caregivers?
Succinctly stated, caregivers or family members can install the app on their loved one’s smartphone and set the following features up to ensure freedom of movement and independence within a safety net:
Geofencing and location monitoring
In summary, “and according to Google.com, geofencing is defined as “the use of GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling [the] software [app] to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area.” The underlying tenet is that the geographic boundaries form a safe zone. In other words, virtual boundaries can be set up on the app demarking where the person who “is attached” to the device can and cannot wander without the app triggering a warning.
Furthermore, location monitoring can be linked to the geofencing principle. The app uses GPS functionality to keep track of where the mobile device is at all times, and by inference, the whereabouts of the person “attached to the device” can be monitored at all times.
Alerts and emergency contacts
One of the essential parts of an application that monitors and tracks the daily movements of the elderly is its ability to interface between the app, device, and the various role players like family members and caregivers.
If the application does not alert caregivers in the event of an emergency or alarm, then it cannot function optimally. Thus, it is vital to set up emergency contact details as well as the types of alerts sent to the emergency contacts upon installation.
Route and speed tracking
Part of the location monitoring feature includes route and speed tracking. Thus, if a senior citizen goes out for a walk, the caregiver can calculate the length of time it should take for the person to return. If the person is not back within the predicted time, the caregiver will be able to track the person’s route, the speed at which the path is being navigated, and find him/her should there be a problem.
One of the challenges with the elderly is that they can lose their balance easier the older they get. Thus, it is easier for them to fall without being able to get up again. As an aside, this is one of the greatest risks to independent and unassisted living as people age. The solution to this risk and challenge is to utilise a mobile app to notify the emergency contacts should the person fall and not get up again.
Emergency’s happen. People collapse for many reasons. And, very often, the emergency service time is what saves lives. Thus, the SOS feature that is part of The Senior Safety App is a vital component that can be linked to the local emergency services. And, it can be used to alert the emergency services as well as the emergency contacts that the senior citizen has encountered a problem that requires an immediate response.
Low battery alert
Finally, mobile devices are powered by batteries. And, it is easy to forget to charge the device’s battery before it goes flat and the device is switched off. This happens to most of us at a point in our lives. However, it is not a good idea to allow this scenario to develop, especially with the mobile device that is used to monitor and potentially save a person’s life.
Therefore, a low battery alert, as a vital aspect of the Senior Safety App, provides a simple solution to the challenge of ensuring that the smartphone’s battery is sustainably charged at all times.
As discussed at length during this article’s initial paragraphs, it takes a great deal of courage to face the facts and overcome the challenges that are part and parcel of ageing or growing older. Thus, ageing can lead to the loss of independence and the consequent loss of the quality of life for the person who is growing older. This, in turn, can lead to emotional and mental challenges like anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related conditions.
Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the elderly are able to remain independent and active for as long as possible. This point in itself is not always a simple task to achieve as the person needs almost constant supervision to ensure (s)he does not incur injuries leading to the potential loss of life. However, it is an aspect of the elderly’s life that must be successfully managed to ensure continued quality of life via the mechanism of independence for as long as physically possible.
Fortunately, the advancement of the Digital Age and mobile device hardware and software development has provided and continues to provide, a solution in a mobile app that monitors and tracks senior citizens and helps provide a sustainable solution to the need for independence.