Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Why Have a ‘Technology for Seniors’ Category?


Everything and nothing is in the caregiving innovation frontier.  Slogging your way through the enormous market scoped in AARP Caregiving Innovation Frontiers report, one can see how care-giving has become commercialized, pushed off-course and reduced to data gathering & business promotion.  Business innovation & offerings are no longer the result of published studies, but produced at a 3-day hackathon (like Witness) and don’t really fit into the caregiving world.  Based on “data”, they get funded and then they’re no longer a standalone business, like BeClose, Lively, Isowalk, and DoctorAHA.

Who is that caregiver anyway?  Browsing through icon logos, an image forms in the back of your mind of the caregiver as a San Francisco smartphone-wielding yuppie – who’s probably related to or knows a care recipient – but is too busy or too lazy to provide care themselves.  Most, if not all, technology companies in the senior service/care arena are really in the data-control business, the more data they can control the more powerful they become.

The technology is only a byproduct in gaining the power-position; because of this data control position they can also be in the forecasting/predictability business, making money from multiple data streams.  Which begs the question – is this form of senior technology therefore really focused on the customer’s sustainable independence?

But the report offers another image – is this the real message?  The AARP ‘frontiers’ report doesn’t highlight technologies within the category of caregiving – implying instead that tech, online services, and loosely related subjects are all potentially relevant for caregivers who don’t self-identify and thus could be almost anyone.

And senior technology is not about those “vaguely” described 60 or 65-year old’s, or empty-nester, or their children – senior technology is for the older-adult, 70+ who wants to stay in charge of their own life in a truly sustainable independent way.  This is where senior technology needs to shine, however, this is most difficult and truly very unchallenged.

What if there is no ‘Senior’ technology category?  Perhaps ‘Seniors’ who are sometimes 50+, sometimes a vague group subset (60, 62, 65? Other?) will have technology needs & interests that vary just as widely.  Many may want exactly what their adult children and grandchildren are using.  A different sub-group may want to make sure hearing or vision assistance are features, voice recognition is feasible, app menus can be customized to a short list.  These features can all be placed or customized on smartphones, tablets, and desktop or laptops right now – no longer requiring specialized hardware software.


A commenters view.  First let’s define ‘Senior’ as the Older-Adult, 70 to 100 years of age, with this established we will see that the process of aging is for ALL a different process, very challenging and very unknown as to applied-technology in supporting the aging-process.  This field is called “Gerontechnology” – it is very specific and very un-glamorous.  A societal challenge not yet taken on by many.

The medical world has succeeded in adding more years to our physical lives, but technology as a contributor to sustainable independence, has not yet touched the areas of really adding quality of life to the years we have gained.  This field of Gerontechnology is very special and very specific and cannot be added into the pool of general technology to fit the masses.  So, my plea is for an even more specialized category, a category for the aging process in which the senior at any age can fully participate in the support process.

As technology has encouraged the medical world to come down from their ivory tower, let’s not have technology build its own.  Democratizing senior technology is still and un-known SPECIALIZED field.

Read Article (Laurie Orlov | | 02/02/2016)

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, inevitably the day will come when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology.

It’s more important today than ever before that everyone become even a little-bit-techie, for their own wellbeing and that of their loved ones.

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Social Technologies & Human Behavior in Disasters


How do people use social technologies to communicate and work together after disasters?  And how can those technologies be improved to facilitate that communication?

Those were two of the core issues addressed by Kate Starbird, assistant professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, during her talk at the recent GeekWire Summit.  Starbird discussed the emerging field of crisis informatics – the study of how information-communication technologies are used during crisis events.  My research looks at the intersection of computer science and social science, specifically at the use of social media during disaster events.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there was a huge social media response.  Millions of tweets, tons of photos per second on Instagram, and other platforms that were popular at that time saw a lot of use.  Some years later I was contacted by a guy who said, “Hey, I want to talk to you about how Hurricane Sandy was the first social disaster.  Can you help me with this?”  I said, “Absolutely, I can help you.”

First, Hurricane Sandy was not the first social disaster, all disasters are and have always been social events.  Disasters are inherently social, and ever since we’ve had social media people have been using these platforms during disasters in all sorts of creative ways to share information and help one another.

I’ve been studying this intersection of social-computing during crisis events for a few years now, and by social-computing, I mean all of the tools and platforms that help us share information with each other, and not just the tools and platforms, I’m focused on the human behavior that these tools and platforms enable.

I look at them in many different kinds of crisis events: natural disasters, earthquakes, hurricanes, and extreme weather like an inch of snow in Seattle – I know what kind of disruption that can cause around here.  This also includes man-made events, which provides a lot of opportunity.  There are many things we can now do that we couldn’t before.  People can share information with family, friends, neighbors, emergency services even journalists, about what’s happening around them, in real time.  Most of us are armed with these mobile phones, and we can use these platforms to share information.

This can help people make better decisions, enhance our situational awareness, help us understand what’s going on in our space of the world, if we can get the information we need.  These tools can also be used by emergency responders to share information with their local community in real time, like the evacuation notice that went out during floods in Boulder, Colorado.

Another focus I have is online volunteerism, how these platforms and tools facilitate people coming together to help one-another in new ways.

Haiti Earthquake 2010 – This was a catastrophic event where hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives with thousands injures and displacements in the wake of this devastating disaster.  People had a very acute need for food, water and shelter but the already fragile infrastructure of Haiti was totally decimated.

The importance of social media in the aftermath of this disaster can never be over-stated.

Hurricane Irene 2011 – This hurricane was created devastation in upstate New York and Vermont.  There was catastrophic flooding that washed away whole towns, roads and bridges.  People were trapped, in need of food, water, medical treatment and shelter.  With the loss of power family members had no way to connect, in rural Catskill Mountains there was no mobile phone connections.

So some journalists created a live-blog that posted reports of those trapped or missing, information about families and loved ones, question & answers.  Thousands of messages were handled by this social media platform.

Hurricane Sandy 2012 – This hurricane devastated New Jersey.  One aspect of this event and social media was people trying to find gas for their vehicles during evacuations.  So the Twitter hashtag #NjGas was created and used for the search.  They would tweet: I just got gas here, the line was long, the price is this, they are price gouging, they are not price gouging, or whatever, and post the info with this hashtag.

The broad question here, is how can we build technologies, including tools, the platforms, and the policies to support resilience during disaster?

Read Article (Todd Bishop | | 10/28/2015)

A key (pivotal) element not included in Kate Starbird’s study is digital literacy.  Internet availability and access to social networks is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the social platforms, is just as important an issue.

Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.  During a crisis, mobile device user knowledge can make all the difference.

(Related articles: National Geographic on Earthquakes, Homeland Security on Smartphones, Value of Smartphones in disaster)

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How Much Are You Worth to Facebook?


If you live in the UK you’re only worth one-third of a North American to the social network – and if you live elsewhere, it could be even less.  Facebook has set new records for both the number of users in has, far outstripping every other social media company, and the amount of revenue it generates.  But how much are you actually worth to Facebook?

During the Facebook earnings call on Wednesday, the social network giant revealed that it now has 1.59 billion users that visit it on a monthly basis, worldwide, which is up 40 million users since its last report, Q3 2015.  That accounts for about 50% of the 3.2 billion internet users globally, according to data from the ITU, and 21.5% of the global population.

Daily active users were also up, reaching 1.04 billion users, while mobile-only users have increased to 823 million making up 51.7% of the company’s’ monthly active users.  Mobile Facebook users, 1.4 billion a month, also account for 80% of Facebooks revenue, mostly from advertising, which helped it break records and reach $5.8 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2015, up over $1.3 billion from last quarter.  Facebook makes money through targeted advertising, payments and a few other areas.

So by far, the most interesting figure, to the rest of us, from Facebooks earnings report is just how much each user is worth, on average.  Well, that sum grew by over 25 cents to $3.73 per quarter.

Of course, not everyone is equal across the globe, US and Canadian users clicked in at $13.54 each quarter, while someone in the Asia-Pacific region is only worth $1.59 to FB.  If you live in Europe, including the UK, you’re worth $4.50 per quarter, while the “rest of the world”, which includes most developing nations chimes in at $1.22 per user.

The reason sums vary so much relates primarily to the amount of advertising money spent in each region.  The US was worth $2.8 billion in advertising revenue last quarter, while Europe was worth only $1.4 billion.  But even with Americans individually worth $3.73 per quarter, wherever you might live, perhaps you’re not worth as much to Facebook as you’d have thought.

Read Article (Samuel Gibbs | | 01/28/2016)

Despite any privacy issues, Facebook is not only alive and well, its growing at a calculated rate with very few real threats in the foreseeable future.

But with technology advancing at an exponential rate, inevitably the day will come when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology.  A long-term solution to learning to use devices that connect to the internet must be put in place, and that solution is our service.

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Turning to Social Media Times of Need


Frank Vardeman was about to undergo knee surgery in January after his legs suddenly “turned to noodles” and could no longer support him.  Tests revealed the culprit to be a large growth entangled in his spinal cord.  It took two neurosurgeries at a Chicago hospital to remove the mass and 44 days of rehab before the 62-year-old could return home in Chesterton, Ind.

Though the spinal growth turned out to be non-cancerous, he is now paralyzed from the thighs down – a difficult adjustment for anyone, especially for one who danced at his daughter’s wedding the month ago and still walked his 90-pound mutt along the shores of lake Michigan.

About a week after the first surgery, his wife, Heidi, a pastor at a local church, began posting updates about his medical condition on the social networking site CaringBridge.  This mode of communication helped her avoid repeating the same story and “has been an affirmation of how many circles of friends we have and how many people really care,” said Ms. Vardeman.

April 21st, Mr. Vardeman had to undergo another surgery because of infection, which prevented a much anticipated trip to London, to attend a friend’s consecration as a bishop in the Church of England.  In a posting from Europe, his wife tells friends and family, “We are now coping with a new reality, Frank has completely lost use of his legs.”

Many baby boomers are turning to social media for caregiving support.  Now instead of dealing with emails & phone calls, the more tech-savvy can boot up their computer or mobile device and contact all supporters at once.  But, as with all social media, the question arises, “How much to reveal, and to whom?” as Patrick McGinnis, 53, quickly discovered.  After his son, James, 18, suffered severe head injuries playing high school football in Overland Park, Kan., Mr. McGinnis posted an update on his own Facebook page, and sharing previous summer photos.  One of these turned up in a local newspaper article on his son’s injury.  No harm done, but “it was a warning that I have to be very careful about what I post,” said Mr. McGinnis.

Nichole Maholtz, 48, considered using CaringBridge after her mother, Jane Schuck, was found to have virulent soft tissue cancer in 2013, but decided it was too much extra work at an already stressful time.  Instead, Facebook became her primary communication tool.  For nearly two years, Ms. Maholtz, who lives in Irmo, S.C., posted Facebook updates from her cellphone, iPad or laptop as she traveled with her mother to multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

By tagging her mother and brother, each of whom had their own Facebook pages, and relying on her 19 cousins to share the information through theirs, Ms. Maholtz was able to reach several thousand people.  Many commented on her posts.  “It was very effective, with very little effort,” she said.  “I found it extremely comforting to know that so many people out there were pulling and praying for my family.”

When Ms. Schuck died, on Dec. 26, her daughter shared that news the same way, posing an obituary, details about a memorial service, and a link to a guest book on, a site for posing condolences.  Based on the outpouring of sympathy online, Ms. Maholtz assumed everyone knew what had happened.  She was surprised to learn, several weeks later, that a couple of her mother’s business colleagues, who were not on Facebook, were upset that they had not been told.

Read Article (Deborah Jacobs | | 05/13/2015)

Social media is an outstanding communications tool, but one must always be very careful what one posts there.  Its Public, the comments are Public and all posting to social media is Permanently Public.  You must keep in mind that everyone is not on Facebook.  In fact, there are quite a few individuals that you couldn’t pay to be on FaceBook or Twitter.

The digital era demands that everyone be a little tech-savvy, this is the only way to know how best to use technology to your advantage.  Our service is the long-term solution to assist the learning process in that endeavor.  Please support us today.

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